Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Rock Hounding Lake Geoge CO #Baveno #Amazonite #Goethite #Quartz #Pseudomorphs


I use the winter months to clean minerals and get ready to attend a few mineral shows. As I cleaned a number of crystals, I found some microscopic topaz on some pegmatite plates. I guess these plates may be collectible to a mineralogist, but are not really of interest to me as you almost need a microscope to see the topaz. 
Small topaz at base of fluorite
Still an oddity I suppose for Lake George.  I also met a geologist from another local rock club over the winter who has interest in odd things and so I showed him some small blue gemmy crystals on a plate of pegmatite. I found this specimen several years ago. The geologist got quite excited about these crystals.  He is going to write an article on this find after the specimen’s identity is determined using XRF technology. Most likely a phosphate mineral new to this locale is in the process of being discovered (see post 7/27/13: Fluorite and Pocket Minerals)


It’s been a slow start to the rock hounding season. First the late season cold and then some heavy wet snows.  Words like snow bombs, snowmageddon and Canada's revenge were bandied about to describe the spring storms. The biggest snow of the season came in mid May with 10 inches of very wet snow and a lot of damage to budding tree limbs.  One month later it still looks like a tornado went through some parts of my neighborhood. Some seasons we
10" of heavy snow in May damaged many trees
start rock hounding where we left off the previous year.  We closed last season with nothing much to go back to. So far this year we’ve been prospecting for a crystal “hot spot”.  Some days we come away with just float crystals from a long ago exploited mineral cavity, other days we manage to find a small pocket of crystals.  We’ve gotten out a few times and have had a couple minor scores but not much to blog about.  I’ve combined a few June rock hounding outings into this blog post.

Back to prospecting… so we revisited some old and new areas so far this year.  We hit one area that we had found a lot of goethite in the past and decided to give our luck another go in that area.  This spot is fairly remote and we were surprised that somebody redug out a number of the holes we had previously dug and filled.  We noted in each dig the high-graders never dug down far enough to hit the bottom of the old pocket, but just made a mess digging large holes that we had previously filled with junk tailings.  The claim is clearly marked and gated.  Folks who mineral trespass have been and are prosecuted. We dutifully filled their holes and remediated the sites once again.  I selected an area downhill of where my digging partner Bob had found some nice goethite. There was a large tree stump in the process of decay on the claim and I thought this might provide a backstop for goethite eroding down the hill.  I found a couple of amazonite crystals right at the base of the stump so I dug down and uphill from the stump.  
The goethite we had found before at this site was in strips of sand between feldspar and quartz.  I soon started hitting some goethite specimens near the bottom of a sandy area above some scree.  I found about 10 specimens near the stump before the dig played out. The goethite needles were somewhat worn (too be expected as they traveled down the hill), but large and intricate enough to get my attention.  I took home the specimens and cleaned them up.  I noted one goethite specimen had a lot of quartz on it which turned out to be onegite (quartz with goethite inclusions). A fairly nice find.
   The next trip out Austin and I went digging together.  It was cold and windy with a little ice mixed in along with a biting rain.  We outlasted the weather but wondered when summer would arrive.  I dug in another’s previously dug hole. I dug down all the way to the bottom of the pocket and found a few straggler smoky quartz crystals.  Another area seemed to be a rather new dig and it was quite shallow. The excavation looked like a two person dig with pits on both sides of some untouched ground in between. There was a bit of grass growing in the dig debris so I’m guessing someone dug there a year ago or so. I dropped my pick axe into the undisturbed area in between the digs and crystals rolled out of the side of the dig.  I think whoever dug there got to within an inch or two of this pocket.  A sure sign of a pocket is usually red clay/dirt and there was plenty of red dirt leaching out of the island between the two holes.  I got a few collectible crystals out of this pocket.  Most of the smoky quartz crystals had milky white overgrowth on the terminations which makes them somewhat different and more desirable to me.  I prospected another area where someone else had stopped digging bull quartz running up the hill.  I found a lot of quartz fragments and one crystal.  Austin found a couple microcline crystals in the same area. The icy rain began to fall in earnest and the wind kicked up, we decided we’d had enough for that day. I’ll have to return to this spot another time and continue prospecting it.

Trip 3&4.  I visited a site I hadn’t dug for nearly 2 years. The dig site was grown over with weeds.  I recalled I wanted to revisit this site as I had found some nice small amazonite crystals there a couple years ago.  I previously quit the dig as I had run out of pegmatite, but float crystals above my dig brought me back to this area.  I continued digging up the hill and went about 6 feet up the hill digging down about 2 feet as I went.  Suddenly the scree started to firm up into a weak pegmatite and I noted the color of the dirt was changing to a reddish color (good sign).  As I dug I hit a sheet of thin quartz nearly vertical in the ground. I pulled out the quartz and there were amazonite crystals imbedded in the back of the quartz.  I found a few single amazonite crystals here.  Unfortunately almost all the amazonite was frozen/encased in the quartz so that no plates were found.  As I dug out the quartz, it


ended about 4 feet below the surface.  At the bottom there were a couple tabular smoky quartz crystals but nothing really collectible.  This spot kept me busy for the day and I did get a few crystals out of it, but overall it was disappointing.  One particular crystal I felt compelled to show the claim owner.  When digging on somebody else’s claim (with permission) it’s generally agreed that if you find something good the claim owner has first right of refusal.  Well, I’m happy to say the claim owner told me I could keep the amazonite baveno pictured below, so I got a nice addition to add to my collection.
Amazonite Baveno Twin, found, cleaned, displayed
Trip 5. Mostly prospecting this day and it wasn’t til 2PM that I found something worth digging into. I decided to poke around a big burned out tree.  Almost immediately I found a 3 inch smoky quartz crystal near the base of the tree and decided to dig in up the hill from the find.  Within a couple minutes I was popping out well defined microcline crystals. As I dug down a bit I was rewarded with quartz crystals below the microcline.  As I dug I hit a fairly large root from the old burned out tree.  My digging partner Bob came a long and wondered how so many crystals could come out of such a small pocket.  It was a bit perplexing but it quickly dawned on me that the large root from the dead tree was taking up much of the space of the old pocket. 
Pocket material from trip 5
As I chopped out the root I found a few more crystals underneath with pseudomorphs of goethite or limonite after a carbonate.  You can read more about pseudomorphs in some of my other posts.  See Blog post: “Pseudomorph Sunday or a Return to Iron Hill”, dated 9/1/2017. 

Trip 6.  It was a fairly windy day, which stirred up quite a bit of dirt.  I went with Austin this day and once again did a lot of prospecting.  I found some nice specimens but no pockets.  Austin kept busy most of the day chasing a quartz seam with an occasional crystal tease.  It looked good but produced little. Of most interest to me were a couple large smoky quartz crystals, some ugly microcline crystals tending towards amazonite color and a few fluorite crystals.  The most promising area was where I found the fluorites at the end of the day. 
Some 1.5 inch fluorites (nice for L George)
I had dug in this area before and found goethite and some small smoky quartz crystals.  I often find fluorite and goethite together as they are both hydrothermally produced minerals.  I found 3 fluorites and one pretty intact goethite group. Thunder started rumbling and it was getting close to quitting time so I buried my dig intending to go back soon to see what’s up the hill from this promising spot.  I guess that will be trip 7 for June.

Looks like trip 7 will qualify for it's own post.  Went back and found so much goethite I can probably start an iron mine.  The smoky quartz crystals were fairly plentiful as well.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

NM Road Trip For Minerals #Fluorite #Blanchard #Nit #Rock Hounding




Due to the fairly slow arrival of spring here in Colorado, I decided to hit the road and visit some New Mexico rock hounding locales with Austin.  I checked the local weather and then took a look at climatology for Socorro, NM and found 80F highs for Socorro.  The forecast for Colorado Springs was for more rain and snow.  We decided to visit 3 sites in New Mexico, the Blanchard Mine outside of Bingham, Kelly Mine near Magdalena and Mule Creek near the AZ/NM border. During the trip we determined that Mule Creek has many claims and is a fair distance away so we dropped that idea and started with the Blanchard Mine. We got permission from Ray D. to visit the Blanchard and do some surface digging so that’s where we started.  
Closed off portal at the Blanchard Mine

Blanchard Mine is fairly remote.  The mine began operations during WW I and continued on for a few decades. The mine has “World-Class Significance” https://www.mindat.org/loc-3993.html  Predominant minerals mined were lead and fluorospar though over 50 minerals are cited as coming from the Blanchard, Mineralization of the Hansonburg Mining District, Bingham, New Mexico John Rakovan and Frederick Partey, 2009, pp. 387-398. There is a rock shop near the entrance road to the mining area called the “Blanchard Rock Shop”  The shop owner is not connected with the Blanchard Mine, and the shop might more aptly be called the Bingham Rock Shop. No notoriety there though. http://www.peaktopeak.com/blanchard/shop.htm. The owner of the rock shop has ownership/access to a mine or two for a fee.  The folks at the rock shop were friendly enough but the lack in quality of their mineral specimens surprised me. I had visited this area 10 years earlier and nothing has changed. The shop still had as much trinitite from White Sands Missile Testing Range (Trinity Site) as they did 10 years ago. Trinity Site was where the first atomic weapons were tested.  The glass (trinitite) was the result of heat from the ordnance explosion melting the silica in the desert floor into glass. I would have been interested in buying some atomic slag at $10 an ounce as a curiosity piece, but not at their price of $30 a gram. Not sure how to authenticate it either.  Maybe with a Geiger counter?  
The road to the mine was in good shape though the last half mile was a bit rocky and required some clearance and a 4-wheel vehicle. We arrived just before sundown so our priority was to put the tent
Looking south toward the Blanchard Mine
up and get dinner going.  As night fell Austin got out his black light and explored some of the nearby outcrops for fluorite, rattlesnakes and scorpions.  The ground, rocks and maybe even the brush seemed to light up. Everything glowed from the fluorite chips and barite. No critters though. Night was soon upon us as the sky literally glowed with stars. A few meteors zipped across the Milky Way Galaxy as well as a number of man-made satellites. Austin was a little spooked by the remoteness and quiet ambience of the desert. I loved hearing nothing but the wind sing through the telephone pole guide wires. More on the wind later.  

Next morning we spent some time scoping out the mine, but within about 20 minutes I found an area where others had been digging that looked promising.  I dug in the rocky soil and about 2 feet down was soon finding specimens for my collection.  I called Austin over from his exploration and soon he too found some fluorite specimens worth taking home.  There is about 2 feet of overburden above the rockier fluorite producing rock/limestone where we dug. Once the overburden is removed
Austin digging out some fluorite at the Blanchard Mine
you can dig into a limestone layer that hosts seams of fluorite and barite as well as some galena clusters.  All one has to do is follow the seams and carefully pry out the clusters.  A sturdy shovel and pick axe will get you down to the fluorite bearing host rock and then careful probing with a long handled screw driver or scraper was all that's needed to remove specimens.  I understand the purple/blue fluorite changes color under UV.  We covered our specimens with newspaper as we unearthed them and then carefully wrapped them to protect and preserve them from the sun's rays.  After about 4 hours of digging I decided to go for a walk and take a few pictures.
Fresh out of the ground some uncleaned specimens
Austin thought I was digging out           better specimens than he, and decided my hole was fair game when I left for a walk.  I guess the minerals are always better in someone else’s dig. This was fine with me as I had already dug out about 25 Kgs of specimens and wasn’t sure what I would do with more anyway.  Austin did find a few nice specimens I missed.  When I came back from my walk I asked him to muck out my hole and resumed digging myself.
We had been warned about rattlesnakes and other poisonous creatures but we saw none.  I saw a few deer when we arrived but besides that all I saw was a hawk and a few swallows.  The mining area goes on for quite some distance. During my afternoon walkabout I picked up a few specimens of Brochantite and Linarite just lying along the road. I had seen a little of this where we were digging, and Austin reminded me it was somewhat desirable in combination with other minerals.
Brochantite scattered on ore
I took a few pictures of the area and returned to the campsite.  The wind had battered our tent during the day and it was way past lunchtime, so I found Austin and we put the campsite back in order as the wind continued to blow.  The temperature had climbed into the low 80s and my body’s thermostat was trying to adjust from Colorado’s 50s.  We had brought extra water and were soon dipping into our gallon jugs.  Austin decided he had enough digging for the day so we had dinner and retired for the night.  Around midnight the winds became so strong that they snapped some of the tent poles.  I woke up thinking the tent was possessed and trying to strangle me. Austin decided it was time to abandon ship(tent).  We spent the rest of the night in the truck. Between the howling wind and cramped conditions neither of us got much sleep. 
The next day we picked up our campsite and drove to Socorro to visit the mining museum at New Mexico Tech https://geoinfo.nmt.edu/museum/   The college had moved and expanded their museum since I had last been there. The museum showed off a great concentration of New Mexico minerals. We ogled the specimens for an hour or so.  It was the last week of class prior to exams and the 
NM Halite "Blue Ice"
campus seemed very quiet.  The museum person in charge seemed knowledgeable about the collection but was continuously distracted and writing warning tickets to students parking in visitors slots.  Austin was thinking of purchasing a couple of minerals from their store but nobody was around to make the transaction.  I would highly recommend a stop there if you are in the area, the minerals are very fine.  The plan was to go to the Kelly Mine outside of Magdalena, NM after this, so we got back on the road and headed about 30 miles west of Socorro. 
All 3 rock shops in Magdalena were closed and we were thinking of abandoning this part of our trip.  We stopped at an antiques shop and the shop-keeper there knew Grace, the owner of the Nit Mine.  Grace met us at her shop, gave us permission to camp on the claim, and charged us only $5 per person to sift through the Nit Mine tailings.  We had wanted to go to the Kelly Mine (famous for it's Smithsonite), but the Nit was next door to the Kelly and since the antiques dealer talked up the Nit, we decided to give it a try.  Grace warned us to stay out of tunnels and be aware of cougars. She mentioned others had been digging towards the top near large tailings piles and suggested we might have some luck up there.
We drove to the Nit Mine and then further to large tailing piles.  https://geoinfo.nmt.edu/museum/ .
Headframe of the old Nit Mine
We sifted through the tailings and every time I got about a foot down, the layer above me filled in what I had just dug.  I wanted to get further into the tailings but the hill was too unstable.  I figured t
he top layer had been sifted by several folks before me. If I would not be able to get down below the top layer my chance of finding much would be slim.  Austin was having similar difficulties.  Finally we went to the top of the pile and tried to dig in.  Theoretically this would have been a better approach except that at the top of the tailings pile there were larger rocks much more difficult to dig through and remove.  It was windy again and just as I put a small piece of Smithsonite into my box a gust of wind came up and flipped everything I had collected over into the gravel.  :-(  We dug for a while but became discouraged after a few hours and drove down to the Nit Mine headframe.  We met Grace the owner of the mine who
Seems miners were short in the 1920s
gave us a brief history of the mine and how she came to be the current owner/caretaker.  The mine area was littered with pyrite cubes though small.  We tried to collect some and someone had even left a screen to assist other collectors.  After an hour or so of that I gave up and started dinner.  The pyrite cubes were just too small to hold my interest.  I did explore the mine area.  Much of the equipment brought to the area in the 1920s was still there.  Levers worked, fan belts were still attached.  The wheels on an old tractor, though deteriorated, were still in place. I was somewhat sorry to hear that the owner of the Nit was selling off a few of the mechanical mining equipment to local antiques dealers.
Some old mining equipment soon to be sold off
    There was no graffiti at this mine and it seemed fairly well preserved.  The Nit mine was protected by two locked access gates but ATVs were still getting in.  We spent another night sleeping in my truck at the mine.  I’m almost getting too old for this.  I awoke during the night with the northern skyline flashing with lightning.  I decided it was time for my middle of the night walkabout, but stayed close to the truck.  I felt uncomfortable with the howling wind and warnings of cougars about. I guess it was my turn to be spooked.  Morning came and we decided to go into town and then visit Grace’s rock shop.  I purchased one Smithsonite mineral from Grace, and Austin bought a few items as well. Next, on to Taos, NM.
    We arrived in Taos and found 4 different rock shops.  Three of the rock shops primarily catered to tourists but at least one was a “real” rock shop. Taosrockers   https://www.taosrockers.com/  The shop had 3 large rooms full of minerals from primarily New Mexico but other places as well. Folks inside were very friendly and knowledgeable. Austin told me all 4 rock shops in town were owned by the same person. Though I didn’t buy anything I got a free cup of coffee, a brochure on NM geology and a spot in the sun to sit while Austin did his negotiating.  I’m not sure how many treasures Austin walked away with, but he seemed very happy with one calcite piece from a locale that he had been looking for, for quite some time.  I highly recommend a stop at this rock shop.  All that was left now was a long drive home.  One place we stopped that I would definitely not recommend was the KFC in Taos.  They charged Austin extra for everything including a plastic fork.  If they had done that to me I might have accidentally spilled my coleslaw on their counter top and then accidentally spread it around.  Management needs a change there.  After reviewing some Yelp comments of the place our experience there was nothing new. Stay away. One forgettable experience doesn’t cancel out the fun we had over several days.  Though we planned to visit three specific sites, we only hit one.  I felt the Nit Mine was a compromise to the Kelly Mine and there is probably some good stuff to find in the tailings piles there. Digging through tailings is just not my cup of tea. Overall a very successful road trip for minerals made even better due to the fact it was snowing in Colorado on our return!  Haha!  
A variety of partially cleaned green/blue/purple Fluorite with Barite.  Galena and quartz are also present.




Monday, February 11, 2019

Tucson Show #Crystals #Gwindel #Sulphur #Fluorite

About 2 months prior to the Show I decided to attend this largest gem and mineral show in the world.  I was a bit jaded prior to going to the Tucson Show after attending the Denver Show for a few years.  I was told I would be overwhelmed by this Show.  “Listen here, the Tucson Show is like the Denver Show only on steroids!”  Perhaps I was in training for the Tucson Show by attending all those Denver Shows.  Like the Denver Show the Tucson Show is a series of separate venues.  I had no illusion of seeing the whole Show in a week--I've never taken in the whole Denver Show either. My advice would be to take in one venue at a time, just don’t expect to see the whole Show.  Make it manageable and enjoyable.
I had planned on traveling from Colorado Springs to Tucson in 1 day but my wife had other ideas, and added some sanity to the vacation plans.  We broke up the traveling into a 2 day trip to Tucson. This made it a little bit more expensive as we stayed in motels, but “Happy wife is a happy life” or so the saying goes, so that was an easy compromise for me to make.  We got to enjoy some of the local cuisine as well as get off the beaten interstate path.  If there was something interesting we got off the road and checked it out.  Who knew you could grow pecans in southern Arizona, or see other roadside attractions like giant peppers in Hatch, NM.
Purchased this Sicilian blue fluorite, mineral photos courtesy Bob Germano

I attended the Show 4 days.  Each day I took in at least one different main venue.  I had no crystal wish list going in, but was just looking for nice crystals at reasonable prices. The first venue I attended was the Kino Gem and Mineral show that lasts for 3 weeks.  For someone looking just for minerals this suited me fine.  No beads, no jewelry, no fossils, no kitsch, just crystals and mineral specimens.  I spent very little money the first day and just did some price comparisons.  There were some fine looking specimens, but with full retail prices.  When I tried to haggle a bit the dealers stuck their heels in. It was early on for this 3-week venue.
I heard as time goes on, prices go down--we’ll see.  I’m very familiar with some mineral varieties and crystals prices.  When a dealer has something that I am familiar with that is wildly over-priced I
A bit overpriced in MHO
assume the rest of his stock is similarly out of whack with reality and move along.  I saw this a few times with Colorado minerals. I did manage to buy a few Guerrero amethysts from Mexico. The crystals were somewhat iron stained, but I knew I could clean them up when I got home.
The second day I went to an area with several big tents called the 22nd Street Mineral and Fossil venue.  Everything was there including high prices.  I dipped my toe in and bought a couple nice smalls but stayed away from the expensive folks. The higher end dealers weren’t very busy and I always like to chat with them as they are very knowledgeable.  If you start getting in the way of a paying customer you will quickly and politely be dismissed. J  I visited a few dealers I knew
Picked up this quartz gwindel with fluorite
there, but my favorite guys had little in the way of good affordable specimens.  I tried to work a couple deals, but too early in the Show I guess.  I did make a few contacts and picked up a few business cards which is never a bad thing. 
On day 3, I finally opened my wallet at yet another venue.  The courtyard to this large hotel had both orange trees, palm trees and cactus… seemed a bit surreal.  I teamed up with a prospecting buddy (Austin). We keep our cell phones on and if we find a good deal we alert each other and swoop in for some crystals. Austin alerted me of a dealer with reasonable prices that had both quartz gwindels and blue fluorite.  The dealer’s material was of good to excellent quality, and reasonably priced.  
When the vendor said he would give us a 20% discount I decided to pick up a few things.  My purchases included quartz gwindels, blue fluorite and some nice Sicilian sulphur.  I had been looking for a nice gwindel for a while as well as some nice crystalline Sulphur. I’ve always been a sucker for fluorite. This was the best vendor I had run into thus far. Ended up being the best vendor in the Show as far as I was concerned.  Hope he makes to the Denver Show this fall.
Nice gemmy Sulphur I couldn't resist
While it rained most of this day my spirits were up as I was confident I got some nice specimens for reasonable prices for my collection. I would say I got my finest fluorite from an older Chinese gentleman who was somewhat loath to give it up for the price I offered.  
Photo of my fluorite acquisition 

Eventually he relented and despite his fake tears I feel like I got a reasonably priced piece and am pretty sure he made some money. I’ve always thought that part of the fun in going to a Show is haggling over prices.
Day 4 started out wrong but limoncello was made from lemons and eventually I found some good deals.  My wife (the navigator) and I were looking for the Old Pueblo Show and somehow ended up at the African Art Village.  I decided we were in the wrong place after about 5 minutes of slogging our way through mud from the prior day’s rain.  There were a couple minerals, but mostly it was woven baskets, hats, blankets, soaps and fabric for sewing...  My wife thought it was the best venue ever so I spent a good part of the morning trying not to look too bored. 
Ubiquitous Epidote with Prenhite
The Tucson Show is serviced by a shuttle service and I found out from them that the Old Pueblo venue was just 2 blocks away.  We jumped on the bus and spent a good part of the noon hour looking at beads and jewelry.  A friend had told me to make sure I went to this venue but after an hour of walking around seeing only minimal crystals I was about to quit.  It was just then that my wife left and my prospecting buddy Austin showed up.  Evidently I was in the wrong area of the Old Pueblo venue and was soon awash in crystal vendors.  This being my last day and still having some money/powder dry I jumped in with both feet

 I did not pay full price at any of the vendor's shops. I averaged anywhere from 20-50% off.  I recognize that some dealers jack up their prices just so it seems you are getting a deal, but the prices at this venue seemed reasonable to start with so knocking a few bucks off was enough for me to open my wallet. 
Aquamarine from Shugar Valley, Pakistan
Soon I had a nice aquamarine (excellent color), a large spodumene var kunzite and a fluorite specimen from Madagascar.  I was now approaching my predetermined budget and decided to cool it a bit. I still bought a pyrite with quartz crystals which seemed very aesthetic to me.  It was getting close to closing time for this venue for the day and Austin wanted me to see a number of fabricated bases he had purchased for some of his new acquisitions from a nearby vendor.  We made the stop and the bases sure do add to the crystals.  I’m just not sure I want to start doing this.  While it does bump up the appeal of a specimen it adds another layer of cost to each piece.
It was time to head home, so I got one last cinnamon roll from the hotel breakfast buffet and an extra large coffee.  We decided to make it a 2-day return trip and managed to get in some very picturesque sights as well as get enveloped in a fairly devilish dust storm.  Even stopped at a couple out of the way rock shops. Can't never get too many rocks!



This morning I awoke to 2F and 1 inch of fresh snow in Colorado Springs.  Maybe we should go back to Tucson for another month.
Won't see this from I-25 or I-10.  Good-Bye Arizona, Hope to See You Again Next Year!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Rock Hounding At Collector's Edge--An Indoor Field Trip


Namibia amethyst group with odd termination
Rock hounding minerals in Colorado can run a bit far afield, especially when I set the rules. When it’s cold and icy outside a little shopping for deals at local rock emporiums helps pass the winter time.  I took a planned trip up to Denver and checked out Collector’s Edge (CE).  Now I’ve always understood Collector’s Edge to be higher end, an out of reach dealer for the regular collector, but who knows.  I went on a tour with a couple other Joes and was greeted at the door by Phil Perrson.  Phil has been working for CE for over a year and has a MS in geology.  We were welcomed into a foyer where to the left a number of fairly old brass microscopes, goniometers and other antique rock viewing instruments were on display.  I found their workmanship astonishing considering many of the instruments were made over 100 years ago.  From the museum display we went into the high end mineral area, and were overwhelmed by the proprietor (Bryan Lees') personal Colorado collection.  Everything was there that could be found in Colorado with a special emphasis on rhodochrosite from the Sweet Home Mine, barite from Stoneham, and smoky and amazonite combinations from the Pikes Peak Batholith. The showroom had wall-to-wall cases loaded with mineral specimens. Each mineral was carefully documented and aesthetically displayed.  After an hour or so of examining these specimens we moved on to the lab and prep area.  In the lab a number of large concretions from Mexico were being cut up for the brown barite crystals hidden inside.  There were also a number of brilliant yellow brucite specimens the cleaners were working on.  Lab workers were also working on a number of plumbogummite plates that I recalled from an article in the Mineral Record magazine. Plumbogummite is
Plumbogummite
pyromorphite crystal, whose terminations have pseudomorphed into beautiful light blue plumbogummite. I really liked saying the word plumbogummite, and much to the consternation of my traveling buddy I preferred to call it plumbogumbo.  I decided that despite CE’s prices I might have to get one.  I saw lots of chemicals, exhaust hoods and vacuum chambers, some epoxies with dyes, numerous saws and a number of friendly people. The workers seemed happy in their tasks, perhaps that was because Bryan Lees, the proprietor, was in China?  Next up was a staging room for the Tuscon Show.  I think there was at least a semi-truck of flats ready to go to Arizona in January. The Tuscon mineral show is the largest show of its kind.  We had reached the end of the building.  Thinking we were done I asked Phil if there were any less pricey plumbogummites to be had.  Phil said of course there are, after lunch we’ll go to the warehouse.  Warehouse… who knew?!
Lunch didn’t go by fast enough for me.  I wanted to get back to the warehouse. The warehouse is located about a block away from the main work area and offices.  They had a keystone (half-price) area where you can buy single crystals and another area with flats of minerals. I went immediately to the keystone area looking for a plumbogummite that I could afford.  I got a nice plumbogumbo for a good price and moved on to where my chums were looking through flats. I think there were well over 1000 flats of minerals.  My chums decided to split a flat as who needs a couple dozen fluorite even if you do trade/sell some.  I thought maybe I’m better off back at the keystone area. Then I noticed some of the flats said mixed minerals--Namibia.  Hmmm lots of different stuff in a flat, maybe I don't need to buy 20 of one thing.  Plenty to look at and maybe add to my collection.  Yea I can spring for one of those boxes. The problem with my collection is it’s all black and blue… I kid you not.  Too much blue amazonite and black smokys--not bruised minerals.  I think I looked through about 100 boxes of mixed minerals from Namibia.  Boxes ranged from 4 specimens (museum size) to 54 specimens (thumbnails).  Prices ranged from $50 to $500 a box depending on the mineral quality. I went for cabinet size pieces and got a flat with 18 specimens from Namibia.  There was some duplication but I didn’t mind that too much. I figured 3 of the specimens in the flat could pay for the entire box. 
Schorl with fluorite
Schorl is not my favorite mineral but when it’s combined with other things like fluorite I find it acceptable.  So I got schorl with fluorite, schorl with aquamarine and plain old schorl.  I also got stand-alone fluorites, a topaz, an aquamarine and a few oddities I have to figure out.  What fun!
    So where do I start with the flat?  First I divided everything up into known, and unknown specimens.  Instead of being lazy and asking folks on the internet for help on what different minerals were, I decided a cold Saturday afternoon was the perfect time to learn how to do a specific gravity (SG) test.  I also used a couple other techniques to see if I could figure out what some of these odd minerals were.  I read up a bit on minerals of Namibia at various web-sites to see what was possibly in my subset of unknown minerals.  The specific gravity test is pretty easy, just google John Betts for information.  I decided to do the specific gravity test on a few known minerals like quartz, fluorite and microcline to see if my technique was reliable enough.  I got SGs of 2.54 for microcline, 3.05 for fluorite, and 2.63 for quartz.  All within tolerance as far as I was concerned which is probably why I only got a B- in college chemistry.  See for info: https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/minerals-specific-gravity-d_1644.html.  Time to check out those unknown minerals.   Oh-oh the unknown minerals are primarily mixed or on matrix.  So taking the specific gravity of a mixed mineral won’t work, I need solitary minerals for the SG test… oops.  Well, I did what I could and verified a couple fluorites, a topaz, and a couple cerrusite. The rest of my unknowns are either on matrix or have associated minerals with them.  I was hoping for some dioptase but alas, only green fluorite.  It was a fun time looking through the minerals at CE.  The people there were friendly, Phil was a great host.  The end result was I am now able to use the specific gravity test to identify a few more minerals.  I also added some colors to one of my display cabinets.  Hooray, my cabinets are healed, no longer black and blue!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Three Rock Hounding Trips to Lake George, CO in October #Onegite #Goethite #Amazonite #Rockhounding #Rocky Mountains

Snow beginning to pile up on Pikes Peak
As another rock hounding season in the Colorado Rockies comes to a close, I wonder if I will be able to get out there again, or is this it for the season?  Mother Nature has been telling me no as of late, but you never can tell.   Bob, my digging partner, and I have gone out a couple times during the month of October and neither of us can recall stopping this early in the season due to cold and snow.  Last month we decided to go back to one of our more productive sites but we’ve dug it so much it’s hard to figure out where to go next.  I decided to work a gully which I usually avoid, thinking it is just a collecting area for broken float crystals.  When I saw a couple of nearly complete well-formed microcline crystals I decided to give it a go.  Visually sorting the wheat (crystals from a nearby undisturbed pegmatite) from the chaff (broken float crystals from a nearby dig) is a learned skill. To my surprise there was a pegmatite only inches below the surface.  The peg was shedding microcline.  While a pegmatite with microcline is not too exciting I was hoping for a concealed crystal pocket with something better.  
One of the larger crystals from this small pocket
As I dug a little deeper into the pegmatite the microcline turned bluish green (amazonite), but was still not producing well-formed crystals.  On I went following the blue sign and sure enough I did manage to hit a small pocket.  The size of these amazonite crystals wasn’t very big but at least the color was above average.  I continued in the old water run following the pegmatite and blue sign.  Soon quartz started becoming more prevalent and I started getting a little excited.  I shoved a fairly large rock aside and underneath were a number of quartz crystals--even a combination of amazonite and quartz.  Unfortunately the quartz was layered with iron/goethite and not very appealing. The size of the combos was also underwhelming, but at least it was something.  As I continued to dig 
Quartz with goethite overgrowth
up the hill I hit a very large amazonite crystal, nearly the size of my fist.  I got excited enough to call Bob over, but the curse of calling my digging partner Bob over to see what I had found manifested itself once again.  The peg ended and the crystals dried up.  We joke about this phenomenon, so much so that I rarely call Bob over unless I’m really into something good.  Oh well.  I took about 75 crystals home from this spot but I'll be surprised if 10% of them are worth keeping.  Too much damage and too much iron coating.  Quite often shallow digs, suffer more damage than the deeper larger pockets infused with protective clays.  The iron coating seems to be happening more often than not on this part of the hill we've been digging.
Next visit. I prospected an adjoining hill to our successes of last year and found some old digs, but not much sign on the surface.  Even the old digging piles seemed nearly devoid of quartz.  I decided to prospect a slight spine running up the hill where others had dug, and tried to stay out of the run-down material from previous diggers.  After digging a bit I found a fairly nice phantom crystal ( a smoky crystal hooded in clear quartz), but determined it had eroded out of a pocket already dug up the hill from me. I decided to hop over the previous digs
Phantom quartz with prospector's thumb

and continue along the spine guiding me up the hill. Without much quartz sign I decided to dig anyways.  It reminded me of my late mentor Ray B.  Ray said that in some places at Lake George, all you have to do is throw your pick up in the air and start digging where it lands.  Might as well give that method a try I guess nothing else was working.  It was near the end of the day and I had invested some time and energy into the dig I was working on so I continued despite it's lean offerings.  Bob stopped by, bemoaning his lack of success and checked what I was up to.  I felt a little embarrassed showing him what I was digging in but at least there were some small quartz crystals. Bob decided to dig up the hill from me.  Soon we were both finding some small quartz crystals.  At the end of the day we decided this area merited further prospecting.
Third attempt for the month.  The next outing, was over a week later due to poor weather and other complications.  We headed straight for our new area up at Lake George to do some prospecting.  I found the pegmatite I was working on the last trip, but it continued to only yield small float quartz crystals, similar to our last visit.  Bob found a pegmatite nearby, and started finding some more impressive specimens.  Unfortunately nearly 80% of what Bob was finding was badly damaged.  Still, he did find some very impressive goethite, onegite, and a couple double terminated quartz crystals. I think he even scored some small fluorites.  I continued to slog my way along my pegmatite finding only small iron/goethite coated crystals.  After a bit the small quartz crystals I was finding seemed more frequent on the right than on my left.  I followed the crystals on my right and was soon pulling out more productive looking pegmatite (larger grained rock).  I decided I needed to stretch my legs and walked over to where Bob was digging.  Bob had an impressive pile of broken quartz crystals and microcline.  He did show me a very nice 3" double terminated smoky and remarked that he was also finding some goethite and fluorite.  I guess there was some hydrothermal activity on this hill at some point in time, that helped bring about the goethite and fluorite specimens. I remarked that Bob was doing better than me this day and he certainly had some keepers.  
A keeper for sure!
A good day is when we both find something to take home.  A really good day is when we find something good enough to put in our display cabinets at home.  Bob was having a really good day.  I returned to my pegmatite which was about a foot below the surface.  As I dug I noted an occasional weathered chunk of goethite.  All the nice goethite needles and sprays were worn down but I figured at least it was something to follow up the hill.  As I proceeded along the pegmatite, a softer area began to develop in the middle of the pegmatite.  I no sooner noted the change than I was pulling out goethite sprays.  These sprays were well defined.  I determined that this must have been where the floater goethite chunks I had found earlier originated.  I pulled out about 8 fist sized or smaller chunks of goethite and noted some had quartz crystals embedded in the goethite as well as a few very small fluorites.  I wasn’t competing with Bob’s finds but at least I would not go home empty handed.  Bob checked out my progress and decided I should have one of his onegites with goethite sprays.  Onegite as a mineral has been discredited but we use the term locally to define quartz with goethite inclusions.  Onegite was first discovered and named in Onega, Russia only to be later discredited as a separate mineral. Thanks Bob!  Sympathy onegite.  I’ll take it!  :-)   
A nice grouping of goethite on quartz peppered with onegite crystals

It’s been a slow year for both of us though not without some fun.   I hope we can get back to this area a time or two before winter shuts us out completely.  Who knows what we will find next on this crazy hill.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

A Return to Silverton Colorado 28 Sep 2018 #rockhounding #amethyst #quartz


 After 10 years of a pitted windshield, cracks running thru my vision everywhere, some hailstones destroyed my old 4-Runner.  Seemed like an expensive way to get to see thru my windshield, but I like this ride better too
After a fairly successful rockhounding trip to the Silverton area in July (see post 7/23/18)  my rock hounding buddy, Austin and I decided to return to the same sites near Silverton, CO that we had previously visited. We hoped for another crystal score. I finally got a replacement Tacoma for the 4-Runner that was totaled the previous month, so I decided it was time for a road trip. We coordinated our visit with a geologist friend, Raj in Durango who discovered the crystal rich site earlier in the year, and told us to come on out. I was a little concerned about a late September trip into the mountains but Mother Nature gave us a break this time. We set off west from Colorado Springs towards Silverton, Colorado and made a stop at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (BCG NP) between Montrose and Gunnison Colorado. 
          We took in the sites at BCG NP as a ranger explained how the canyon was carved out of granite over a period of millions of years. The canyon is actually the 2nd deepest canyon in US outside of the Grand Canyon, AZ. 
One of several canyon overlooks, I went as close to the edge
as I dared
At one point the rim of this canyon is more than 2,500 feet above the canyon floor.  Austin kept telling me to take one more step back so he could get a better picture of me... I think he wants my truck :-)  If you get a chance to see BCG NP it’s worth a stop. We took a few pictures and continued on our way to Silverton, CO.  We stopped at a rock shop in Montrose and Austin favored a couple specimens but we left empty handed promising to return on our way home.  The owner of the store talked about some tourmaline he got from a prospector near Gunnison, but had left the material at his home in Delta, CO.  We saw similar material later on in a rock store in Ouray. We passed on that too.
     We arrived at Silverton around 5PM as the sun was getting ready to set behind the mountains. I decided our priority was to get our campsite ready while we could still see.  Austin was in a hurry to see the dig site, and I knew if we went to the dig site first, the sun would be down before we'd have a chance to set up the tent. 
View of the mountains from our camp site
The campsite was put in order fairly quickly, I think Austin got the tent up in 5 minutes!  After a 10 minute walk we found the dig site much as we had left it a couple months ago.
At the end of the trench where we had previously dug, folks had probably dug another 15 feet or so along the quartz seam.  Austin jumped into the trench and found some crystals right where the previous digger had left off.  A broken plate and some small crystals were laying there ripe for the taking.  We went back to the campsite assured there would be plenty of crystals to dig the next day. Austin built a fire while I got out the camp stove to cook up some BBQ.  It seemed like Austin's campfire smoke followed me wherever I went.  The next day we were anxious to get started so we just heated up some oatmeal and hiked over to the dig site.  Austin jumped into the hole and he was quickly pulling out some fairly nice specimens.  He lined up some nice crystal plates near the top of the dig and showed me a couple of the larger groupings he was finding. 
Austin's big plate
The plates looked good and I recommended that we not clean the mud off the crystals until we got home to protect the crystal points.  Of course Austin was curious to see that the terminations were sound so the mud came off. 
Austin continued to work the end of the trench while I searched for a vug/spot further along the quartzite outcropping to dig in.  Since Austin had no hard rock tools I shared my chisel, crack hammer, pry bar and sledge hammer.  I assisted him when he needed to remove larger boulders blocking his efforts.
     Around 9:30 I heard some noise in the woods above us, and the real fun was about to begin. I noticed a figure walking down the hill towards us and alerted Austin. I wasn’t too concerned about having a problem with anyone as this was public land and we had coordinated our visit with the geologist who found the site. However, I quickly pulled Austin’s jacket over the pile of better crystals and plates he had found.  If this was the guy that dug the hole there is no reason to get him too upset over the nicer stuff we had already found. Plus he might not leave if he saw what we pulled out. Our visitor (Hans) was a bit distressed and claimed he had worked the site with his friend Franz the day before, and had opened up the pocket Austin was working in. Hans went on to let us know he couldn't sleep the night before thinking of all the wonderful crystals that could be in his pocket.  Well, now he saw what was in the pocket as Austin had lined up several specimens above the pocket, except of course for the better pieces I had covered up with Austin’s jacket. We told Hans that we had scheduled our visit 3 weeks earlier with our geologist friend Raj, who had discovered the area, and we had been working the site since 8AM.  I had little sympathy for Hans as he failed to coordinate his visit with the geologist, had not finished the pocket he had opened the previous day, and initially accused us of trespassing on his spot (public land) and later said something about running us off. We then told Hans we had coordinated our trip with Raj, the geologist who had discovered the site.  The end result was Austin gave Hans a couple nice pieces from the pocket. Hans then showed me where he had stashed his tools to work on the pocket, and permitted us to use his tools if  we might need them. Hans then left.  We continued to dig for several more hours until Austin uncovered a fairly large boulder with crystals on it’s side. Austin told me I could work the seam and keep what I found if I would help him remove a large boulder.  As we removed the boulder I noticed there were some crystals underneath it so I figured I would be taking something home. I found a fairly large crystal attached to a plate. I dug back into the rock as 
Fairly nice crystal plate in hand
far as I could before I broke the plate off the quartzite. I carefully pulled out the plate, but when Austin saw the plate he pulled a Sméagol on me and decided he wanted this precious crystal for his own. Austin did give me a fairly large crystal for my efforts though not the plate I had dug out.  I told Austin that I thought the day's find was worth $5K. I mentioned that Austin should give the pocket a name.  Every large pocket that I find I usually name. I suggested "Hans' Regret", Austin didn't think that was funny... oh well. At the end of the day Austin's friend, Raj showed up, and seemed amazed at what we had found.
     The plan for our trip as I understood it, was to spend one day at the milky quartz site and another day at an amethyst area on the top of a mountain.  I had told Austin I wasn’t interested in hiking up to the amethyst area and would prefer to just work the quartz site near the camp site, and he could drive up with Raj and  hike up the mountain for the amethyst.  That evening I found out that Raj had a camper on the back of his truck and was not planning on taking that off to drive Austin up the mountain to the amethyst site. I changed my plans and decided I would drive everyone up the mountain and then hike to the top as well.  
Marmots getting ready for the coming winter... they left my truck alone
     The next day as I parked my vehicle above tree line, Raj mentioned he had some trouble with marmots chewing on electrical wiring under the hood of his vehicle in the past, so he brought some mothballs and ammonia along to fend off the varmints.  I was glad for his thoughtfulness and dispersed the ammonia round my truck while bags of mothballs were placed in my engine compartment. I’m not very quick at 13,000 feet so it took me awhile to hike to the top.  I knew where I had to end up but I kept losing the sketchy trail on the way. The 20-year olds were long gone by the time I worked my way up the mountain. I had to retrace my steps and rock scramble four different times to get back on the path. Austin checked up on me a couple of times on two-way radios... after all I did have the keys to the truck. Finally I got near the top of the mountain and was told not to crest the hill because there were some claim jumpers on the other side, and Raj didn't want the claim jumpers to see me, and give away the amethyst hole he was working in.
A chilly view east of Silverton, CO
After 20 minutes of waiting in a fairly cold stiff wind I decided Raj could just shoot the claim jumpers if they got too close, I was getting cold. I crested the hill and Austin found me and soon all three of us were digging out some crystals in a fairly large chasm/pit that the geologist had opened up a few weeks earlier.  Austin wandered off and spent most of his time outside the pit gleaning crystals from previous dig sites while I helped Raj muck out the bottom of the pit. Raj gathered up crystals, and crystal plates from the bottom of the pit and then placed them in a plastic bucket and hoisted them up to me.  I dumped out the material from the bucket and gleaned through the muck looking for crystals. The geologist was none too happy that he didn't have a flashlight, but he did the best he could. After an hour or so I found a place in the pit to dig and found a few crystals for myself. At the end of the day the geologist said we would divide up the crystals. First Raj took a few of the finer plates he found and then generously divided up the rest of the stuff we found in the pit.  We found a lot of small pale amethysts along with a few plates of quartz.  With two deteriorated disks in my back it took me longer to get down the mountain than going up (which is why I didn't really want to go up in the first place).  I knew from past experiences that one misstep or slip would really mess up my back, and with the extra weight of rocks I had to be careful.  This is also why I took a pass on lugging down any large crystal plates for myself. Eventually we loaded up the truck and drove back down the mountain.  The marmots had been defeated with ammonia and mothballs and all 3 of us were pleased with our haul. 
    We spent another night at the campsite and listened as some light rain fell throughout the night ruining our plans to revisit our now nearby muddy quartz dig.  
Cleaned Quartz I found in above pic
The next day we slowly traveled back to Colorado Springs stopping at rock shops along the way home. Austin made some trades with Ben who is taking over his father's rock shop in Ouray, Colorado. I purchased a Hardin County, IL fluorite pictured below.  Ben was quite affable as it seemed the cold, wet weather had kept
Fairly nice fluorite backlit by old Sol 
the tourist traffic down this particular morning, so Ben spent quite a bit of time with us. We continued on our way home in a steady rain. When we arrived in Salida I decided I was due for a shower for $5 at the local aquatic center, but that price was too steep for Austin. I told Austin afterward I got a free shower as I looked pretty bad-off to the attendant, and promised not to go into the pool. (haha). Austin wondered why I hadn't gone back to the truck and gotten him for a free shower.  I told him it probably wouldn't have worked for the two of us, especially since I looked more like a homeless person than he did. We stopped at another rock shop in Salida but it was closed, and then checked on a local jeweler. As the trip was winding down I decided we deserved a treat as we had a successful trip and neither one of us had come to blows.  We stopped at a Dairy Queen in Canon City and indulged ourselves with some ice cream. Evidently the secret to making a proper dip cone has never been explained to the DQ folks in Canon City. It looked like they painted the chocolate cover on my dip cone with a spatula. I was just grumpy enough to have them redo it, unfortunately with equally dismal results. I decided I wanted to get home sometime that day so I took my cone to the truck and watched the ice cream melt all over my hand. The ice cream still tasted pretty good.
      Some pictures of the cleaned specimens we found on our recent trip are pictured below.  The one large artichoke quartz to the right appears to have some inclusions under a secondary hooding of quartz which may have encapsulated some manganese. The crystal also has some odd rhombic impressions which I may study a bit more. While the amethyst is pale it makes up for that deficiency in the odd windowing or fenster habit exhibited in nearly all the crystals in excess of 1 inch.  Some of the smaller amethyst have multiple terminations which I also find intriguing.  Austin is already busy selling some of the larger quartz plates to a high end dealer and has promised me some cash for my share of work.
The following weekend snow covered Silverton and it seemed like we got our season ending rock hounding trip in just in time.  At least rock hounding season ended in the high mountains.  We are already itching to go back again but we know that will have to wait until spring. Maybe a NM road trip can be done until the weather warms up.
One week after we left Silverton, here is a view of the outskirts of the town courtesy of CO Dept of Transportation. Brrrrr!
  .