Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Rock Hounding

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Rock Hounding the Lake George Intrusive area of the Pikes Peak Batholith – Teller County, CO

A new discovery rock hounding, is it possible? In the fall of 2023,
Looky what I found
I attended a Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society (CSMS) Club sponsored field trip to one of Joe Dorris’s claims. Joe is a local miner who allows Clubs, by appointment, to prospect his claims. I spent the morning prospecting a hillside that many had dug before me. The mineralization signs on the surface of the hill looked promising. I reasoned that if others had dug here, maybe there was something someone had missed or overlooked. There were gemmy shards of quartz and light blue/green chips of amazonite left by others long ago. Some machine digging had also been done. Mother Nature was eroding away a bit of the side of one of the machined pits. I decided to check the old dig. The pit was about 6 feet deep. Near the bottom of the pit-wall I noticed a bit of yellowish clay. The yellow clay contrasted sharply with the greyish/brown surrounding scree. I stuck my pickaxe into the yellowish clay and was soon in a thin seam of microcline crystals. I began an adventure that lasted a few days—could this be the Mother Lode? I followed the yellow clay seam until it intersected with a larger formation of quartz and formed a pocket of crystals. The pocket was filled with smoky quartz crystals that were covered with purplish clay. Unfortunately,
Purplish bottom of pocket still loaded with crystals   
the crystals were nearly all broken and deeply fractured. A few single microcline crystals showed a bluish tint to them, so I knew I had amazonite. I probably pulled out a couple hundred quartz crystals that day, but only a few crystals were collectible due to damage. I decided to give this dig a name, and it will hereafter be referred to as the Eclipse pocket. I found the pocket a day before an annular eclipse and came back to the dig a day after the eclipse. After cleaning out the large pocket I retraced my excavation and followed some quartz shards to my left. The broken-up shards of quartz led me into a small, but nicely formed pocket of gems. I got a few complete smoky quartz crystals from this pocket and a couple well-formed, albeit small, amazonite smoky quartz combination specimen.
One of only a couple combos I found
As I finished the day, I sent my good friend Bob into the dig to see what he could find, while I sorted and packaged my finds. Bob pulled out some fluorite and interesting pseudomorphs. I was barely able to keep up with what Bob was pulling out. Pseudomorphs are minerals that replace other minerals, taking on the original mineral’s crystal form. The new crystal has the form of the original. (See Twinning, Polymorphism, Polytypism, Pseudomorphism ( I was finding quartz in rhombic forms, suggesting to me that the quartz was replacing a carbonate mineral, maybe siderite? At the end of the day, I showed Joe Dorris my finds. He was a bit surprised by the odd pseudomorphs. I returned a few more times to the site with Joes permission and was never disappointed. It seemed I would just finish up one pocket of crystals when another pocket showed itself. I believe there were 5 distinct pockets of crystals. Minerals in all 5 pockets were covered in a purplish clay. While I was digging, as soon as I saw a change of color (reddish brown to purple), I knew I was coming into another pocket of crystals. None of the additional pockets came close in quantity or quality to the crystals I found in the first pocket. All the other occurrences had amazonite, purple fluorite and pseudomorphs of quartz after a carbonate. I found very few smoky quartz crystals as I progressed along the microcline formation/ pegmatite. It seemed like the higher up I dug along the pegmatite, the more faded out the amazonite became. Also, the purple color of the fluorite diminished in intensity. I made sure to show Joe my finds, and he got a share of the minerals. I am a bit stumped on the rhombohedron shaped quartz pseudomorphs. I can’t be sure what the original/replaced mineral was. Similar drusy quartz also encrusted some of the plates of amazonite, making epimorphs of quartz over microcline. The largest unknown is what kind of carbonate was dissolved and replaced with quartz.
Quartz w/ Fluorite ps carbonate
“The most common quartz pseudomorphs are those of calcite, barite, fluorite, and siderite” (https:// pseudomorphous_quartz). The common theory among local diggers is that the original carbonate was most likely a siderite. I guess I will go with pseudomorphs of quartz after siderite for now. After finishing up digging out the Eclipse pockets, my next project was to clean my finds. The first step was to sort out all the fluorites to clean separately by hand. Next, I took the clay-enveloped minerals to a local car wash for a good soak and spray. After doing a secondary wash at home, I carefully examined my specimens for quality—no sense wasting time and energy cleaning minerals that are chipped or broken. While checking for quality I noticed some very odd crystals. I am used to finding quartz, microcline, fluorite, and goethite, but now I was looking at something different. Time to get out my microscope and take a closer look. I had seen black rod-like minerals before and reasoned this was columbite--Fe (see pic below). Another mineral looked a bit like zircon. After some consultation with subject matter experts, it was determined that the suspected zircons are actually xenotime (see pic below). Finally, I started cleaning the fluorite I set aside earlier. While cleaning clay from the fluorite, I realized that a piece I was cleaning was not fluorite at all but appeared to be barite (see pic below). The barite fluoresces and even phosphoresces a light yellowish-tan under long-wave illumination. Time to check my reference book, Minerals of Colorado, by E.B. Eckel, 1st Ed, 1997. Xenotime, an yttrium phosphate mineral, referred to as xenotime-Y, was first found by R.E. Ziegler in the Pikes Peak Batholith. This was corroborated by E.E. Foord and D.E. Kile (pg. 534). Columbite--Fe or ferrocolumbite was first noted in Teller Feb 2024 CSMS Pick & Pack 17 county by Lazard Cahn (pg. 161). L. Cahn was the CSMS Club co-founder and is the honorary Club president. Finally, barite. According to a Ray Berry communique, small well-developed barite were found associated with smoky quartz, microcline, and calcite in Teller County (pg. 92). No spectrographic or XRF analysis was conducted on any of my minerals. Long-time diggers and subject matter experts of the Pikes Peak Batholith helped me identify my finds. On behalf of all the local Clubs, I wish to give Joe Dorris a hearty thank-you for scheduling and permitting Clubs to organize field trips to his claims.  Thank you also for allowing me the extra time and pleasure to dig out and finish a world-class pocket of minerals. Even though it is now the middle of winter, I need to contact our Club’s field trip coordinator up for
 more fun during the upcoming rock hounding season! 

     Black columbite rod in matrix/plate                         Xenotime crystals on matrix (magnified)

Barite group

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Trick or Treat Pocket 29 Oct -- 6 Nov 2022. Rockhounding the Lake George intrusive area of the Pikes Peak Batholith

No wildfires near Lake George, CO this fall.  Controlled burns like this one can produce a lot of irritating smoke
While we were in the midst of fall, winter was rapidly approaching. I hoped to score a pocket before the onset of winter. I had been prospecting an area that was dug up a lot in the past, but I figured nobody gets it all.  I started checking out some old digs and found a bit of mineralization (sign) between two digs.  There was a dig up the hill from me, but it was at least 20 feet above me. I decided to give the spot a try.  I soon hit some grey quartz and then a microcline crystal. 
Nice size smoky popped out

I took the microcline crystal in hand and decided to see if I could find my digging partner Bob.  Bob was about 100 yards away from me, but I needed to stretch my legs. I found Bob digging in a well mineralized pegmatite, but with little to no crystals forthcoming. After showing Bob the pieces I was finding, I wished him luck and walked back to my dig. We often check on each other while we dig. It was about 1PM and I figured I better get cracking if I was going to find and harvest a pocket.

I got back to my dig and continued following the quartz up the hill.  I was digging fairly shallow, but the sign was good and I continued to follow quartz up and into the hill.  The quartz was slowly getting better with white quartz turning to grey and some crystal faces now appearing. I just pulled out my first quartz crystal and Bob appeared over the hill. I was now about 5 feet into the hill and 3 feet down.  Bob sat down to watch the developing "show".  Below shows the extraction of a microcline crystal.

Soon I was digging out smoky quartz crystals with size.  After 2.5 hours of digging I decided to take a break and handed over my tools to Bob.  I began to wrap what I had found. Suddenly Bob interrupted my wrapping saying, "you're going to have to take this piece out yourself". It appeared to be a plate of crystals. The only thing showing was the butt of the plate and a microcline hanging down into the bottom of the pocket. Despite daylight beginning to wane I decided it would be better to spend some time taking out the right side of the pocket before I went after the plate in the back. Fortunately, the sides of the pocket were separated from the surrounding country rock, so pocket extraction was not too difficult. I worked my way towards the back of the pocket carefully pulling crystals away from edges. I was now laying on my stomach trying to get at the plate. It was finally time to reach into the back of the pocket to pull out the anticipated plate of crystals. I was able to stick a hooked screwdriver behind the plate and slow move the plate directly out of the pocket. The bottom/back of the plate faced me, so I didn't really know what I had. I slowly crawled/backed out of the hole on my knees and elbows like some kind of crippled crab. Finally, I extricated myself from the pocket and held the plate up in my hands for Bob to see.  From the look in his eyes, I knew I had something special. I sat up, flipped the plate around and knew I had a nice keeper.
      Doesn't look like much, but a lot of work needs to be done. 
See picture at end for the near finished product.        
I thanked Bob for letting me take out the plate and staying to help me. The last thing I did was remove all the loose debris around the spot where the plate had been, in case there might be any fits to the plate. With bad weather forecast to move in the next day I decided to bury the remains of the pocket and head home. I wasn't sure when I would be able to return and harvest the rest of the pocket.

A few days later I did return to the site and mucked out the dig.  A bit of snow had fallen, and the ground was frozen to about 6 inches. I carefully removed the debris I had dumped into the pocket and began extracting crystals once again. I didn't find any plates this time but did find a rather large microcline at the bottom of the pocket. I spent the entire day excavating the pocket and kept finding interesting albeit smaller crystals. A short video below details some of the action

Bob always says there is at least one good crystal in each pocket.  I counted about 5 very collectible crystals and a crystal plate that would find its way into one of my mineral cases. I wrapped up my crystals and figured I was 99% done with this pocket.  I would return to this spot one more time to inspect the remains of the pocket for any missed gems and then remediate the area.

Third trip back to the pocket. I had one area on the left side of my dig which was yielding microcline. It was over 5 feet down in the ground. There was a void, and I was able to pull out some small single microcline crystals. In order to further access this void I would have to remove about 2 square yards of rock and debris... no thanks. I'd removed the quartz seam producing the smokys that ran right through the center of the dig.  Very little if any quartz was found in the void, so I decided it was time to fill in the hole. 

Time to remediate the dig

When I got home the first thing I did was rinse and then sort my finds.  All microclines went in one pile and all quartz in another.  Next I decided to look for fits to my plate of crystals. Immediately I recognized that some rehealing of broken crystals had taken place. Fitting rehealed crystals that had broken off the plate may be next to impossible. I refer to rehealed crystals as those that have a secondary layer of quartz over the broken areas. I then divided the crystals into small, medium, large and rehealed crystals. There was also a lot of manganese mineralization (gunk) clinging to many of the crystals and some fluoride also mucking up my finds. I also found some small, shattered fluorite crystals in some of the debris I took home to analyze.

After doing an initial cleaning I noted the microcline do have a slight bluish tint to them. Not sure the color is strong enough for the microcline to be considered amazonite. Oh well, I still have many keepers and bragging rights to an end of season hurrah! See more pictures below.

Pictured below is the large plate cleaned and reconstructed. Seven separate fits were found to the plate. The importance of taking odds and end pieces home for further analysis and possible inclusion in other pieces (plate) can provide considerable enhancement to a collected specimen.

One final cleaning and a couple of small fits will complete this plate (12.5 lbs). I found the
sheared piece of microcline (right center microcline front), so that should help the look of the piece.

Large microclines with cleavelandite

Some cathedralling crystals above

6, 8 and7 Inch Smokies

I finished up my posts to my blog early as I caught COVID just before Thanksgiving, dosages of Paxlovid fixed me right up.  See you next year!

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

September Rock Hounding: Amazonite, Goethite, Quartz and more

Forest Service Road winding its way through the fall colors at Lake George, Colorado

 I will document 3 different finds in this post.  First was a goethite find, second some amazonite and finally quartz on another trip to Ouray, Colorado. I also snuck in a trip to the Denver Show as well.

My persistence digging this year was not paying off.  I went from one new discovery to the next with little to show for my efforts (see this year's previous posts).  I decided to return to an area where I had found goethite and amazonite in a prior year. I noticed a lot of pale but large amazonite pieces in one area and decided to give this area a second look. There was a lot of feldspar topping a large quartz blow where others had dug previously. I decided to attack the quartz and see what if anything i could find.  I intently worked the boundary between the feldspar and the quartz. In order to get anywhere I had to dug and pull out some massive quartz boulders. I gave up on the idea of finding amazonite due to the overall poor color and lack of completed crystals. Most of the feldspar was encased in quartz. I was however, finding goethite. Nearly every time there was a void between the contact area between the quartz and the feldspar, I would find smoky quartz shards with goethite. It seemed the goethite had preferential growth on smoky quartz shards. Here you can see goethite wedged in between layers of quartz and feldspar in the center to the photograph. I was hoping to find some fluorite or onegite, but was unable to locate any of those specimens in my dig.

Nice little spray of goethite from the area with a flat of specimens in the background.

More goethite on quartz above, I think I've had enough here and it is time to move on to something else.
Next up the Denver Show.

I spent a little time at the Denver Show this year. 
Fairly large crystals on many of these specimens

I like to help out at Austin Cockell's booth when he is busy, but it was a slow show from his perspective.  I'm more into digging and finding my own minerals unless I can get a deal. I was tempted by some faked citrine crystals, they looked nice, but no sense in getting involved in owning faked material. I did see some nice dioptase minerals from the Congo and purchased a couple of those. The dealer was absent from his booth when I arrived.  I noticed a few twenty-dollar bills on the ground and pointed that out to some coworkers. They got on the phone and the dealer showed up fairly quickly.  The dioptase crystals were of fairly large size, and I liked the contrast between dioptase and associated blue shattuckite. They needed a little cleaning, but i have no problem with that. Next up was a trip to Ouray, Colorado.

                                            Molas Pass, near Silverton, Colorado  

The colors were near peak when we arrived at Silverton. While I had promised my wife this would be a color tour, she knew I had my digging tools along. After all, how much leaf peeping can you do?  Rain was forecast for most afternoons, so color tour in morning, rock hounding in the afternoons.

Since the weather was less than ideal, I decided to hit up the crystal cavern in Ouray, CO.  After a couple wrong turns and trying to guide some lost tourists onto the correct trail I finally found my way to the crystal cavern. For anyone interested in the geology of this area, i took a picture of this sign.

Well, you get the idea, not so easy to read....  Anyway, my spot this day was near the Box Canyon in Ouray.  I understood the cavern was mostly dug out, but with rainy weather I decided i might give it a try. I am standing at the entrance of the cavern looking inside.
As you can see, much of the walls have been dug out.  I spent an hour or so exploring the cavern hoping for an unexcavated nook or cranny, but it was pretty well played out of crystals.  The crystals here are small druzy quartz growing over calcite crystals.  The calcites are mainly habits of rhomb and dog tooth crystals. At the entrance of the cave I decided to dig down and see what i might find in the excavated rubble, maybe some nice discards?  I was pleasantly surprised to dig out several small plates of exactly what i was looking for... quartz over calcite crystals.  I found one grouping that really surprised me and wondered who would not have taken this nice specimen home?  Below are some of the pictures of the specimens I found in the rubble pile.  I also show the one outstanding specimen.

I unearthed these discards and took many of them home for cleaning

Here was the prize of the day and the trip, of course there were also the invaluable leaf pics.

The whole point of collecting these is to place the specimens in hydrochloric acid and etch out the calcite leaving only the eggshell like quartz behind. Below is a movie showing part of the process (done outside of course). What you have left is an epimorph.

Once the calcite is etched out and the quartz was cleaned I ended up with this!
Note the shell of a double terminated calcite crystal in the foreground of the specimen.


Digging in the debris definitely paid off.  This ended the fall color/rock hounding trip.  I found one nice quality piece for my collection.  One more story for the month -- amazonite.

After recovering from a week's worth of leaf peeping, I decided it was time to spend a little more time at Lake George before winter closed the rock hounding season down.  I had noticed some interesting granite outcroppings near a spot I had dug before and made a note to get back and explore that area.  
We don't see moose that often out at L George, so I was hoping for a special day. Center of picture (small and fuzzy) but I make it a practice of not stalking animals

I got back to my spot and sure enough under the granite outcrop was some amazonite.  All the amazonite was embedded in the host rock, so nothing collectible there, bvut the rock going down looked promising.  Soon i was digging in some white quartz in what appeared to be a narrow seam between a pegmatite.  Sure enough, there was more amazonite and this looked a bit better in both form and color than the pieces above.  Not too many complete crystals. There was also a bit of fracturing. 
I continued to follow the quartz seam with amazonite until it ended in solid quartz.  I was 5 feet down and really not finding much to collect.  At the very end of dig I found some small onegite.  Onegite is a discredited term that we use locally to describe quartz infused with needles of goethite. 

Cleaned pieces after acid bath

All in all, September was a fun month with several nice finds.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

August 2022 Rock hounding at Lake George [Amazonite & Goethite]

A spray of goethite on quartz from the August dig

I decided to dig in an area I had dug before. I had found fluorite, amazonite and goethite on prior digs to this spot.  There was a rather intimidatingly large white quartz blow in the middle of this area, so I decided to attack this quartz. With my digging partner's help and a crowbar, I managed to move some rather large chunks of quartz. There was a lot of microcline on the top of the formation with white quartz underneath. The microcline was a faint blue, but it was all frozen together with no single crystals. I had decided to pull out the quartz and see what might be there.  I found that on the edge of the white quartz, bordering the microcline there was sandy areas with pieces of goethite. While most of the quartz was white, the goethite grew off of grey shards of quartz. Every time I found some small shards of smoky quartz, I would find sprays of goethite clinging to the smoky/grey quartz. After 3 separate visits to this spot it seemed the access to the goethite just became too difficult. My shoulders were also beginning to bother me even on days when I wasn't moving 200lb boulders of quartz.  Time to end this dig and see what else I can find.

Another flat of goethite clinging to quartz. Only a couple smoky quartz crystals were found

A bit of prospecting in another area led me to a promising spot of amazonite.  The amazonite near the surface under a cap rock was of fair color, but I dug for better.  Heat from surface fires reduces the vibrance and dulls the color of amazonite. Since fires have gone through this area, sometimes amazonite further under the ground can be protected from the heat and exhibits better color. There was a soft spot under the cap rock, so I decided to follow this feature downward.  Once again, I had to deal with a lot of white quartz.  Teaser pieces of fairly good colored amazonite greeted me as I dug down, but no full crystals were found. I continued to dig down and into the hill with some small rewards. Mother Nature does not give up her amazonite easily. I finally reached the bottom of the dig by hitting bedrock. I dug along the top of this rock following a softer seam above it. 

Occasionally I was rewarded with an amazonite or two though most were heavily fractured and subhedral. Slowly the seam began to pinch off and I started seeing some smoky quartz shards. The seam finally pinched off and I took some of the quartz shards home for further examination.  I could some little secondary crystals on the quartz shards and hoped for some onegite.  Sure enough after a bit of cleaning and further examination I determined I had found some onegite (quartz infused with goethite needles). 

More amazonite getting neutralized after an acid cleaning bath

So ended August.  Got a few things, but nothing to report to the Denver Museum of Science. Haha. 

The next months post covers the Denver Show and a trip to Ouray, Colorado

The Blues and Moose on the Loose in July


Highlight of this month was some moose at Lake George, not crystals

The month of July was warm.  I took 2 weeks off rock hounding as it was just too hot.  I was following some fairly good colored amazonite crystals in a pegmatite seam that ran up the hill.  I followed float along the seam until I got to an old dig.  Nothing about the old dig looked right to me. There was just not enough host rock to support a pocket. As soon as I dug above the old pocket the float disappeared. I backed up my digging and found little.  Tried again above the pocket and refound the seam of small pieces of amazonite about 3 feet down.  I followed this seam for about 15 feet until it finally petered out with little to show for my efforts.  Teaser pieces kept me looking, but finally sanity prevailed, and I decided to look elsewhere.  I always spend more effort when I am following better colored amazonite, probably spent more time here than I should have.  I meandered back to an area where I found some goethite in a prior year. I spent much of the month of August digging quartz from that spot and found a few interesting specimens (see next post).

See below for picture of the July dig.  It is hard for me to quit on float amazonite when the color is so blue. 

No pocket, just single crystals

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Jack Dempsey Pocket #crystal mining #rock hounding #Colorado

I found this pocket on 24 June which just happened to
be Jack Dempsey's birthday. Dempsey was a champion professional boxer, and Colorado native.  The pocket was pretty beat up, just like some of Dempsy's opponents. 

I prospected an area a few days earlier and tried to dig there but Mother Nature kept sand blasting me with very strong winds. I ended up looking further down the hill with no positive results. I resolved to come back to this more promising spot. The next time I went out, the winds had abated, and we had a real nice day for prospecting.  I found a fairly strong quartz seam and so I decided to follow the seam and see what it might produce.  A couple of large dirt-covered rocks which I assumed were goethite soon popped up. Upon further inspection I found them to be fluorite.  Nothing spectacular, but off to a good start. The fluorite has a clear center with a green outer layer then purple.

Multicolored fluorite
The exterior was coated in an almost drusy coating of purple fluorite crystals. I continued to dig the quartz seam. Many of the quartz chunks started to have a face or two so I continued onward.  Soon I was down about 4 feet, still following the quartz seam and trying to decide whether or not to continue.  The seam was expanding. After a bit I found a couple of quartz shards with crystal faces and knew I should continue.  At about 2PM and 5 ft down I hit a pocket of sorts.  Massive quartz chunks many with faces extending down into a clayish material. The pocket!  I carefully excavated some of the larger quartz crystals before I called Bob over. Below you can see some pictures of the excavation in progress. The first picture displays the largest complete crystal angling down into the pocket.  The second picture below shows me holding that same crystal outside the pocket. 

Crystal in pocket debris

 After pulling out a 7 incher I let Bob have a turn.  I had been digging for nearly 5 hours straight and decided I needed a break. You get tired and lazy with time and then start breaking crystals.  Bob was happy to give me a break and he quickly found some large crystals just to the right of my quartz group (pictured above). All Bobs finds were disconnected from the matrix and were laying nearly horizontal in the clay. Bob got one 7-incher but the termination was broken off.  A minute later he found the termination to it, so now an 8-inch crystal.  I decided I better get back in the hole before he got all the good ones. Haha. I found mostly broken crystals and called it a day, to resume the adventure next time out.

Next day we came out I went to the back wall of the pocket and found a lot of microcline plates and some flat plates with nearly clear quartz crystals protruding from them. Below this layer was some microcline and below that was the mud with embedded quartz crystals. As I got into the quartz layer and mud, I started seeing some humongous crystal forms. 

What I thought at first was at least an 18 inch crystal.... aw shucks!

It took me almost an hour to dig out this one crystal only to realize 3/4 of the way through the process that I most likely had a crystal that had no termination.  It was becoming obvious the end of the crystal ended in the side wall of the pocket.  The crystal was also attached to the pocket floor in several spots. Later I found another similar crystal but let Bob dig that one out.  Sure enough, that crystal also ended with no termination.  I kept looking for fluorite but found none after the first two examples the previous day.  I continued digging out the bottom and back wall and only found dozens of broken quartz crystals and a few plates of microcline.  I was pretty discouraged that after 2 full days of work I had not found many collectible crystals. The number of broken crystals was amazing.  I went home for the day realizing I was probably done with this pocket and had a lot of remediation to do.

Next visit, I figured I better check everything over one more time before I filled my 5-foot hole.  Once I fill this in there will be no going back to redo it. I definitely don't want any diggers remorse thinking, what if I had dug here or a little over there...  I double checked everything. I pulled out country rocks from the pocket floor, checked the sides and even backed up a bit.  I found a few 2-inch quartz crystals but nothing I would have regretted leaving.  Toward the end of the day, I found one fairly large microcline crystal and put that in my shirt pocket.  I left most of the microcline plates at the dig site. While the plates of microcline were large, the microclines were fairly small and spotted with iron material... yard rocks at best. I spent about 2 hours remediating the dig and probably have a little bit more to do. The weather began to turn south, and lightning started to crackle nearby.  On the drive home Bob commented on the fact I seem to have a knack for finding microcline twins.  I had only found one baveno twin, not much considering all the microcline I dug out. It was then that I reached into my shirt pocket to take a look at the silver dollar size microcline I found earlier. It was the last crystal I took from the dig. I wiped a bit of mud off it and sure enough it was a Mannebach twin. 

Twin common plane with chevron notch at top 

Many years earlier I found a pocket that I called the Waste of Time pocket.  This was a close second to that find.  Still, digging for hours and sifting through material is fun. You never know what might turn up. All in all, I still enjoyed a very nice time in the forest.

When I got home, there is the sorting and cleaning process.  A couple small surprises included fluorite attached to some of the smoky quartz crystals. Noticed a few microcline plates that included smokeys. After looking at the crystals it seemed the crystal pocket went through various crystal building events. 

Purple fluorites on quartz crystal.

The pocket was first formed with crystals that were irradiated and became smoky. Something in the pocket then etched many of the smokys. Next was a secondary infusion of quartz which coated many of the first-generation etched crystals with a clearer layer of quartz. This event created hooded or phantom quartz crystals. Next up was some fluorine in solution. There are chunks of fluorite as pictured above. Some of the clearer second-generation quartz crystals have small fluorites attached to them as well. At some point some albite and iron oxides also came into the pocket to add some variety. Of course, this is only a hypothesis, and I am sure some will disagree with my conclusions.

Left pic is typical quartz crystals from the pocket, just too few for the level of effort expended

I may post more pictures of the specimens collected at a later day.  Now I'm off in search of another pocket of crystals :-)

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

A Royal Scepter at Peterson Mtn


On Peterson Mountain, NV, near Hallelujah Junction (all good pics courtesy of Austin)

I've been wanting to do some digging on Peterson Mountain for 10 years.  Despite the fee, I got an offer I couldn't refuse.  Austin Cockell invited me to come with him and do some digging at one of the pay-to-dig claims.  We visited the Royal Scepter mine and both thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Austin had been to the site the previous year and so we had no trouble finding our way up the mountain.  We camped near the top and enjoyed some panoramic views. The mountain is notorious for its well known winds and Mt Peterson didn't disappoint. Fortunately the winds died down the first night and we were able to get some shut-eye. Since all of our digging was in a pit, the winds were only moderately inconvenient as they blew over the top of us. You may see some pebbles flying across your field of view in some of the videos. The main collecting mineral for this site is quartz.  The number of separate molten silica infusions into the mountain cracks provides a multitude of various types/habits of quartz. The main draw to Peterson Mountain are the fabulous sceptered quartz crystals. 

The stewards of the mine supplied us with the essentials to find crystals.  The whole process was made exceptionally easy with track hoes scrapping the pit and front-end loaders hauling away the debris.  An electric vibrating chisel was also very handy for breaking down the edges of pockets.  Wrapping paper boxes and other tools were also provided to carefully secure/protect our finds and transport them to our vehicles at the end of the day.  The miners used the heavy equipment to break down rock in the claim area into three different steps or benches.  Both sides and bottoms of the dig area were well scrapped so we could see quartz outcrops and follow the seams to crystal pockets. I explored 4 pockets with minor successes and then I hit a nicer pocket in the wall of the lowest level of the claim

Paul checking out my pocket
Even Paul Geffner, one of the mine owners, was interested.  I pulled out a few pencil quartz crystals out of this pocket as well as some candlestick crystals. While I didn't really want anyone's help, I understood Paul didn't know of my experiences. I gratefully gave way, allowing him access to my dig.  Paul used his electrically powered chisel to open up the sides of my pocket for easier access.  I was then able to more rapidly clean out the pocket. As soon as the boss became interested, a whole crowd of folks came over to watch what would come out of the pocket next.  Below you see one of the needle crystals I had just pulled out.



I probably harvested at least 100 crystals from this beach ball sized pocket. Many of the crystals were broken, but fortunately there was a secondary infusion of silica into the pocket. This secondary infusion of quartz formed some candlesticks and scepters on the terminations of some of the broken smoky quartz crystals and provided spectacular rehealed crystals.  I noticed that much of the broken material was very gemmy, but I had to pick and choose a bit what specimens were going to travel back with me on the plane.

Next was Austin's turn to make a crystal score, and he came through in a rather big way (pun intended). for those of you who don't know Austin, he is about 6ft 10.  Soon a crowd gathered around his  digging spot as he pulled out one 6 inch crystal after the next.  After a couple hours I wandered over to see what Austin was up to.  Once again, he was pulling out wonderful quartz crystals.  I decided he was getting better crystals than me because of his height advantage.  haha.

Austin working a crystal pocket
To the left is Austin pulling out another crystal.  To the right we see him with Rick Kennedy, an onsite miner.  Notice even though Austin has a leg up on most of us, he still uses a block of rock to his advantage.

After about 6 hours of digging solo, we decided to dig together a bit.  I barely sat down next to Austin when he pulled out the best scepter of the day.  Definitely a most royal scepter.  Shortly after his find I also found a nice scepter, though Austins scepter has a much longer stem.  See pictures below.

Best scepter of the day

I consider these to be magnificent scepters.  The one to the right is truly exceptional!

I did a quick turnaround cleaning and was able to put a case together for our Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society show less than 1 week after my visit.  Many of the quartz crystals I found at the Royal Scepter claim on Peterson Mountain are memorable. 

An excellent bi-monthly magazine put out by the Mineralogical Record just came out.  If you wish to do more in depth reading on mining at Peterson Mountain, I suggest you buy the 2022 Mar/Apr edition.