Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Rock Hounding at a Rock Show

Getting prepped for the sale with Colorado gems and minerals
I went to Wyoming with a bunch of amazonite and smoky quartz crystals, hoping to sell some minerals at the state rock and mineral show in Riverton, WY. The planning process for any show is a long one. I had to reserve a table for this show nearly 6 months in advance. I paid the table fee in beer to our host when I got there. The trip there was long but fairly uneventful. I had tried to get my long-time digging partner, Bob, interested in the event, but selling rocks is not his thing so I went with an energetic rock hound--Austin who is more interested in making money on rocks and padding his college fund.    
Austin's 1st sale at his 1st show
We went to Wyoming knowing that amazonite and smoky quartz crystals would be rarer there than here in Colorado and figured we could make a few sales. Our host, Al, made everything easy for us and I hope we didn’t impact his sales too much, but I think we entertained him some. We stayed at his cabin in Lander and he even allowed us use of a credit card reader which probably helped us capture a few sales. Since this was our first attempt at selling at a show I figured we would learn a few things and be better prepared next time.

After setting up for the show I perused the other dealers’ wares and an exhibit area. There were about 25 dealers and only a couple of them had amazonite and quartz crystals as side item--which for the most part were broken. Next I went over to look at the exhibits.
Exhibit case with quartz also a nice arrow head display
I was impressed with some of the agate and petrified wood displays--the variety surprised me. The supporting Club had everything well organized and the other vendors made us feel welcome. The host Club also had a kitchen supporting the public and vendors with food and refreshments.
The first day was fairly slow and we wondered if anyone wanted our gems. This was the first time I was on the other side of the counter as a salesperson and it gave me a bit of a different perspective on selling at shows. It was frustrating to spend 10-15 minutes working a potential sale by explaining our crystals, showing varieties, and digging through undisplayed material for special specimens only to be thanked and left without a sale. Most of the looky lous and lucys were fairly cordial; though I thought a few remarks were rude, knowing that this represented a small minority of folks I ignored them. Day 2 started out even slower than day 1 and I thought maybe I should have stayed home. The public was interested in talking and seeing the amazonite and smokys but had a tight grip on their wallets (I felt more like a museum curator). During midday I offered a few discounts but even that made no difference. I had free crystals that I gave to young kids with parents in tow which may have generated a little goodwill but produced no sales. I donated one of the gems bags that I was selling for $20 to the Club’s silent auction. The Club’s silent auction sold the $20 gem bag for $31. I had nearly 100 of these gem bags and sold none. Austin, my show partner, also tried to generate a little buzz by donating some tourmaline to the silent auction, which also went for a higher price than what he was trying to sell them for. We were puzzled. The last hour of the show was the busiest for us. Many of the dealers decided that they liked our gems and purchased several as the show closed making the show a success for us. One dealer had some beautiful thunder eggs which I would have liked to purchase but he packed up a little early and by the time I talked to him the merchandise was gone. 
Do thunder eggs come from thunder birds?

If I had the show to do over again I would have brought a lot less product and more variety, and perhaps spent a little more time with some of the other dealers. I think a few earlier donations to the silent auction might have helped as well--the host Club enthusiastically announced the donors over the loudspeakers. A banner as suggested by Al’s wife and some better lighting mentioned by Austin would probably have helped sales as well. I did talk to a few local vendors and it seemed nobody really had a fantastic show. The lack of sales was blamed on a poor economy in the local area. The entry fee of only $1 may have encouraged many looky lous who might have stayed home with their questions if the fee were closer to $5. We should have had some business cards as well to at least pass out to the other vendors. A little more planning and lessons learned from my first experience should help me out next time if I ever decide to spend the time and the monetary investment to try this again. Thanks again, Al!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day Weekend Digging Crystals At Lake George Colorado

Clouds provided relief during a warm day at Lake George
Our local Club the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society has a claim but is trying to get a waver for paying a $3000 state bond for their claim (state requirement on federal land). Due to this ongoing problem with the state of Colorado, Club members have been unable to prospect or dig for crystals on the Club’s federally sanctioned claim for 2 years.  I won’t get into the reasons for the continued problems the Club is having with the state except to say that Club members haven’t been able to dig crystals near Lake George because most of the area at Lake George is claimed up and the state has closed the Club’s only claim, so recreational digging has taken a 2 year holiday for some.  My digging partner Bob and I have a claim near Lake George and are Club members so we have decided to make our claim available on a limited basis for field trips for the more serious Crystal Club members. 
After starting the planning process for the trip last month and checking and rechecking the deteriorating Forest Service roads we set out with about 9 people. Some carpooled and one even drove in on a motor bike crossing 3 creeks!  We had to recheck the roads a couple of times as more ATVs are using them and chewing them up but we managed to arrive at our claim without incident and enjoyed a warm June afternoon rock hounding.  Most of the members have some knowledge of how to prospect for crystals so after a short safety talk and review of the claim boundaries people scattered to the hills and commenced prospecting for crystals. Our claim policy is that invited folks can pretty much keep what they find. Folks seemed to team up somewhat while I floated around checking our claim boundary posts. We’ve had some unwelcome visitors in the past claim jumping and vandalizing our claim markers but there is really not much we can do unless we install motion detectors, figure out who they are and then take them to court.  Life is too short for all of this drama. After walking the northern boundary of our claim and finding nothing amiss I found a spot near the top of a hill that looked promising and commenced digging.  The area had plenty of quartz and some chips of amazonite.  After digging for a while the broken quartzy pegmatite led me down towards some yellowish clay and a small pocket. 

The crystals were of poor quality and as the wind started picking up and gusting to 35+ mph I was soon covered in dirt. I decided the effort wasn’t worth it and checked on the rest of the group.  Two folks had quite a dig going and were removing small amazonite plates of crystals.  The crystals were fairly small but they were enjoying what they found.
Frank & Ellie loading up on amazonite plates
I had dug that area a few years ago and had been disappointed with the small/pea-sized amazonite. I never went very deep into the pegmatite and wished Frank and Ellie good luck as I went in search of other Club digger. Another prospector was working on an abandoned older dig. I have worked this area myself a few times and have concluded you have to go really dig deep to hit the pegmatite. The previous owner of this claim was Ray Berry and he found a very large superb pocket at this spot. Ray was an exceptional digger and rarely missed much. Austin did find some small float keepers.  He stuck to it for a few hours before moving on to another spot.
Austin is checking out an area around some tree roots

I located my digging partner Bob and he was with a newb showing him some prospecting techniques. Bob found a pocket with some amazonite and smoky quartz though the amazonite was very pale. He gave all of it to his trainee who seemed very happy with his crystals. The motor bike digger left by noon so I'm not sure how well he did, but another group composed of a couple of seasoned diggers had a good day. They immediately gravitated to a long ago dug up pegmatite of amazonite and quartz and were soon ripping it up. They found some fair amazonite and quartz crystals and were grateful for their time on our claim. As time and energy waned folks began heading out. 
John with a t-shirt full of crystals

I decided I wanted to give one area a try where I had found some 2-3 inch smokys in the past. I started digging and soon Bob joined in as we churned up a fairly small flat section of the claim. Once again loose smokys started popping up and we soon made a couple other folks happy with a few crystals. While no museum pieces were found, everyone left happy to have been able to get out and hunt for crystals. Nearly everyone found something to their liking and were very appreciative of the opportunity. Bob and I may try this again next month.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Rock Hounding Attempts at Lake George CO

Hail Hail Go Away Come Again Some Other Day--the mantra as of late.
That's hail not snow on the way home
Tried rock hounding a few times in the last couple weeks but thunderstorms keep chasing us off the mountains. We’ve been finding some minor pockets with amazonite, smoky quartz, microcline, goethite and even some fluorites but nothing extraordinary.  We seem to just get settled and find a place to dig when storms start filling the skies.  No amount of gems are worth getting struck by lightning or getting stuck in the mud.  The area I am currently prospecting and digging is difficult due to the amount of digging done there in the past.  Much of the claim has been worked by bulldozers and track hoes. While the areas remediated after excavation are quite easily determined the quartz and pegmatite pieces strewn about from prior excavations makes it difficult to determine possible float from yet to be unearthed pegmatites or strewn about pegmatite debris from prior mechanized disturbances. You might wonder why I don’t go elsewhere, but there are few places left unclaimed to go to. 90% of all pegmatite bearing land within the Lake George intrusive area is claimed.  There are some small areas between claims that are open, but in the more productive areas claims overlap each other a few times over. So I go where I can and use my detective skills to help determine the viability of prospecting an area. Is the area open for prospecting or do I have permission to dig in the area? Has the area been previously worked and remediated—hopefully not. Are there pegmatites under the ground with viable crystals? Before I can search an area and prospect much leg work must be done.  Having said this I now have permission to dig on over 1600 acres. Nearly half of this area has been machine dug. Conditions by the claim owner have been placed on my prospecting to even including what specimens I can keep.  Still there are specimens to be found, hills to prospect, fresh air to inhale, minerals to dig and crystals to cherish and share.  Having mentioned all the excuses I can think of for not finding much, my digging partner and I are having some small successes.  Bob has spent a lot of time along a prominent pegmatite which runs uphill from the northwest to southeast. While much of the pegmatite near the top of the hill has been dug, he has expended his efforts midway up the hill.  So far he found a large pocket of microcline plates and another pocket of smoky quartz.
Nice palm size plates of microcline
Unfortunately you actually can collect too much microcline (nobody wants it) and the smoky quartz crystals have been fractured and predominately side wall specimens (incomplete). I started my digging above an old dig hoping the pegmatite continued to run with a yet undiscovered pocket of crystals.  I found plenty of smoky shards and some goethite masses, but nothing much to write about. At one point I hit a whole pocket full of shards of quartz... was it left there by somebody else or did Mother Nature just destroy almost the entire pocket?  I also picked up a few massive pieces of goethite and they too may have been left behind by someone else. There were a few 2 inches smokys I pocketed, but that was about it.
2 Inch Smokys
A little Miracle Grow Does Wonders
I kept tabs on my digging buddy, Bob and found a spot near him on the northwest side of the hill that looked promising.  The pegmatite looked good, but the crystals were mostly locked in and only pale blue, so after a day of digging poorly formed amazonite there I moved up the hill.  Soon I found another spot that appeared to show some promise of better colored amazonite but that too played out quickly with only a few small collectible crystals. Next I swung around to the southwest side of the hill noting some small smokys laying on the hill. I wasn’t sure whether these small smokys were from a nearby source or float from digs up the hill. I gave the spot a try and was rewarded with another softball size pocket of fluorites and smokys.  Unfortunately nearly all of the plates of crystals that had fluorites on them were also surrounded by a brown mass of pseudomorphs of iron mineralization after carbonates. While I took some of these plates home, the collectibility of this material is questionable as they will not clean up, but better than getting skunked.
My final try on this hill was last week. I prospected over towards where my partner had been digging and decided to just set down in an undug spot along the pegmatite and give my luck a try.  Within a couple minutes a few small smoky shards popped out of the ground and then goethite. I did manage to get a fairly nice goethite with some smoky quartz points and another pseudomorph of goethite after what I suspect is fluorite with some onegite which is a bit of a unique find. I’ve never had much luck when I’ve been on a hill with goethite. Usually the goethite intermixes into the pockets and makes a mess of the smoky quartz crystals and amazonite.  I think its time to move off this hill and look elsewhere.
I will enlist Austin, a young friend, to see what we can find in another area. We've started a new dig which has shown some small amazonite and will hopefully develop into something noteworthy. So far we've found some small amazonite and a couple of float smoky quartz crystals. There are digs up the hill from us but the slope is quite gradual so I'm hoping we hit something before we get too close to the old digs.
Austin getting ready to tear it up!