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** Throughout the site you can click on images to enlarge them. **

STORM CHASING: Blog :: Lightning

ROCKHOUNDING: Blog :: How to Find Crystals Guide

MUSIC PRODUCTION / DJ: Blog :: My Music :: Gear

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Chase: Lamar Hailstorm May 18, 2018

Mammatus Clouds over Lamar Colorado

Mammatus Clouds over Lamar Colorado

Friday May 18th was forecast to have thunderstorms form along the front range and then float onto the plains with severe potential.  There was a surface low in SE Colorado which was bringing moisture into the NE part of the state.  So I decided to target Limon as there are a lot of options from that central point in Colorado, and I decided to leave early in case the storms fired earlier in the afternoon.

I was in Limon about 12:30pm and already storms were firing in Colorado Springs and Monument.  Another was close to Cañon City and all three were severe warned early in their lifecycle.  The rest of the state, however, was without any kind of convective activity.  It was cloudy and they hadn’t burnt off yet, I could see the clouds were moving west so good low level moisture in the upflow.  The wind shear strong but lacked a good middle layer component, especially in Northern Colorado; and given the steep lapse rates I was expecting mainly a hail threat in the SE part of the state.

Sitting on hwy 287 I chose my next target to be the southern part of the state so I started to head SE.  For those that know this road, the town of Hugo has a couple of miles of 30 mph highway and of course they were enforcing with two Marshalls and had two folks pulled over.  Not sure why Marshalls are serving that community rather than a local police or county sheriff.  By the time I got to highway 94 the storms were still not firing so I decided to take a detour and check out Aroya ghost town, which has been on my bucket list.  See this post for some photos and history.

Finally there were storms initiating off of the Raton Divide heading NE.  I targeted these hoping that they would potentially turn supercellular and have some nice structure.  At this time the NWS issued a tornado watch for the entire southern part of the state, which reinforced that I chose the best area.  I figured by the time I got to Lamar I’d have many directional choices and the storms would be in the vicinity too.

Shelf on the middle cell of the cluster approaching Lamar

Taken in Lamar, a shelf on the middle cell of the cluster approaching Lamar

Lowering bearing down on Lamar Colorado

Lowering bearing down on Lamar Colorado

There were many storms that were still getting organized and I figured they would either developing into one large supercell, or more likely line up into a bow echo.  I left Lamar and headed east so I could be in front of the storm.  The southern part of the storm looked the best early on, but was weakening (visually and on radar) so I decided to chase in front of the storm about 10 miles north giving me some options depending on how the situation continued to develop.

Shelf Cloud expanding east of Lamar Colorado

Shelf cloud expanding east of Lamar Colorado, this was the center of the storm–there was new development to the north and the cell to the south merged with this.

Lowering west of Lamar

Lowering west of Lamar, I watched for a while and there was no rotation, just scud.

Shelf cloud NE of Lamar

Shelf cloud NE of Lamar, looking south at the now merged cells

Hailstorm NE of Lamar Colorado

Hailstorm NE of Lamar Colorado, this is looking directly west; the northern part of the storm continued to develop; an interesting part was in the center and still on the south side of the now line of storms; I continued east in the center having it chase me.

It was fun trying to stay directly under the shelf; didn’t want to get too far under the storm as it was severe warned for half-dollar sized hail and 70-mph wind; but getting out of the car and admiring the structure of this storm got me under the shelf; and this would be the last I would be in front of the storm for the evening as it was quickly overtaking me because I was parked watching the storm.

Shelf could on the south side of the storm

Shelf could on the south side of the storm

Once the rain and hail would start, I would jet forward another several miles.  The storm was heading mostly east so I was still in good position to head south to get out of the way if necessary.  North of my location the storm formed an obvious bowed front and my guess is it would be severe due to wind and hail.  Radar showed the bow front clearly.  The plan at this point was to just let it drift north and east and eventually I’d head south, watch it pass and head east, and then start to head back home and hopefully catch some good lightning.  Going into Kansas after dark is a commitment especially in the SE part of the state since it is a long drive home.

The storm as it almost overtakes me!

The storm as it almost overtakes me!

Cool shot of the front shelf

Cool shot of the front shelf cloud as the inflow turns into outflow (hail and rain!)

I found a good paved road NE of Granada and decided it would be a good road to continue with my chase plan, so I headed south.  The southern section of the storm didn’t look as fierce as it once had but the cloud structure was really cool and colorful!

Cool formation on the southern end of the storm.

Cool formation on the southern end of the storm.

Winter wheat was in full green!

Winter wheat was in full green!

This part of the storm went on to produce 2 tornadoes about 45 minutes after this in SW Kansas

This part of the storm went on to produce 2 tornadoes about 45 minutes after this in SW Kansas

Great funky clouds

Great funky clouds

Santa Fe trail crossing

Santa Fe trail crossing

Getting south of the storm I was expecting to see the updraft along the back side, which was cool but the cooler part was the mammatus clouds forming in the back side of the anvil. At this time the radar showed the line of storms and a tornado warning on the part of the storm I was on; with the surface low showing at the north end of the line.

Line of storms showing the surface low and tornado warning in SW Kansas

Line of storms showing the surface low and tornado warning in SW Kansas.  I’m sure the bow front of the northern side of the line has some great structure as it approached!

Mammatus clouds following the storm

Mammatus clouds following the storm

Mammatus at dusk

Mammatus at dusk

The storms that initially fired over Colorado Springs and Monument were still active and so I headed back north to try and catch them for some lightning photos; but by the time I got back to near Limon most had dissipated and the action was all east in Kansas.  So I put on some good tunes and called it a night.  Between Limon and Kiowa there was standing hail on the side of the road so I stopped to check the size; it was all pea sized and nothing larger, but a good inch on the ground causing it to get foggy.

Overall, 440 miles and 14 hours.  A great first chase of the year!

Aroya, a Colorado ghost town

I first discovered the ghost town of Aroya Colorado while spotting storms, but I was unable to explore due to a tornadic supercell bearing down on us, so I chalked this up to investigate the next time “I was in town”.  I was again chasing but the storms were not firing, so I decided to stop by and check out this old ghost town.  During my initial drive by I only noticed the school building from the road and I thought the town was a farmstead; I didn’t realize there was a abandoned townsite to explore!

Map - Town of Aroya

Town of Aroya

Aroya Colorado was founded in 1866 by Joseph O. Dostal who was a Bohemian Immigrant (I had to look up Bohemia, which was a country about where modern Czech Republic is).  Like everyone coming to Colorado in those days, his dream was to open a meat house in a mining community, but he ended up homesteading a ranch on the Colorado plains (which is still in operation today, two cowboys were on horse herding cattle when I stopped by).  By the early 1900s the town was thriving including a train depot (this was a watering station for the Kansas-Pacific Railroad), blacksmith, feed store, lumber yard, hotel, school, bunk house and many homes.

The demise of the town occurred due to common changes impacting many homesteaded pioneer towns, the state highway bypassing town and the train company having better days.

William Smith's General Merchantile, Aroya Colorado

William Smith’s General Merchantile, Aroya Colorado.  This was on the corner of the county road and main street of town.

Home of Owen "Red" Moreland, built on the foundation of the old Aroya hotel

Home of Owen “Red” Moreland, sone of Ben Moreland who ran the gas station.  This home was built on the foundation of the old Aroya hotel.  Red was an artist and a statue he welded together is at the museum in nearby Kit Carson.

Ben Moreland's Aroya filling station

Ben Moreland’s Aroya filling station

Aroya's second Schoolhouse, 1919

Aroya’s second Schoolhouse, circa 1919

Aroya's second Schoolhouse, 1919

Aroya’s second Schoolhouse, 99 years old!

Aryoa TV Antenna

Television was likely hard to get in Aroya, or were these alien beacons?

Windmill turned Antenna

Windmill turned Antenna

Aroya General Mercantile stuff

Aroya General Mercantile stuff

Aroya Main Street attraction...

Aroya Main Street attraction…or detraction.  An old doll hung out for the elements!

Aroya Main Street attraction...

Aroya Main Street attraction…

Aroya abandoned home

Aroya abandoned home

Aroya abandoned home

Aroya abandoned home

Aroya outbuilding

Aroya outbuilding

Barbed Wire

Barbed Wire

Motor on fence post

Motor on fence post

Aroya's portal into another dimension

Aroya’s portal, one of Colorado’s only portals into another dimension

Creating a prospecting map

I try to keep a pulse on the mining claims in the areas I dig and I keep a prospecting map with me to help understand where I can and cannot look for crystals.  I’ve met folks that are really fair when they find someone digging on their claim; and I’ve also met folks that were really angry.  Note that taking crystals off of someone else’s claim without prior written permission is theft, and you can be arrested and prosecuted by the County Sheriff. 

Although claims are supposed to be well marked–here in Colorado with 6 posts–you may not see the posts easily or the posts may be down or missing.  It’s not very fun wandering around all day looking for corner posts to know if you can dig in the spot you found; so save yourself the time and energy and build yourself a prospecting map!

I recently updated and created a couple prospecting maps of areas I frequent and thought I’d share some map creation tips as it is a fairly simple process and all the work can be done from the privacy of your own home.  As an example of the level of effort required, one area I mapped had about 25 claims and it took about 4 hours total to produce a prospecting map; and now that I’ve created a streamlined process (which I’m sharing with you), it will take considerably less effort next time!

The process I use consists of a few steps, all which can be done in the comfort of your home:

  1. Go to the BLM website and use their interactive 100K map to identify the claims in the area you are interested in
  2. Take notes on the relevant claim information in your prospecting area
  3. Email the BLM office with the claims you need further detail on and pay for scanned copies
  4. Go through the Location Certificates and transfer the claims’ boundaries to your prospecting map

Using the BLM website’s Interactive Map to find Mining Claims

NOTE:  You can click on any image to view it enlarged.

Here is the link for the BLM Colorado Interactive Map (https://www.blm.gov/maps/frequently-requested/colorado/gis-datasets) that you will be using. For other states, search the BLM website at blm.gov.  The first thing I do is turn on the layers helpful in displaying mining claims (these will overlay on top of the existing map).  You may find yourself turning these on and off as you interact with the map and application; play with it and use the application as it is most ergonomic for you.

Use the “Stacked Papers” icon (located in the upper right corner of the map) to bring up the Layer List controls and choose these two options:  Public Land Survey System (PLSS) and the Active Mining Claims (you’ll need to scroll down through the list).  When done choosing your layers you can click the “Stacked Papers” icon again to close the Layer List.  Toggle as necessary.

BLM Interactive Map

I always turn on the PLSS and Active Mining Claims  layers as these will help me quickly find claims in the area I’m mapping.

The next step is to drill into the area you want to investigate.  I found that this workflow worked the best for me:  1) Turn on Active Mining Claims layer, 2) drill into the map to the area of interest then 3) Turn on the PLSS layer and finally 4) Hide the Layer List. This is just what I preferred, choose whatever works best for you!

Let’s look at Devils Head as it is a popular spot due to its proximity to Denver and Colorado Springs.  Devils Head is just west of Larkspur in the center of the state, so I found Larkspur on the map and started to click that area to zoom in.  Assuming you have Active Mining Claims layer active, as you drill in you will start to see a pink boxed area surrounded by green on the overlays.  The pink area is the Active Mining Claims layer.  Let’s drill into the Virgin’s Bath locality.  You may want to remove the Active Mining Claims layer while you drill in and then turn it back on so you can use the switchback in the road as a reference point that is obscured by the pink layer.

Virgin's Bath Map

I’ve drilled into the Devils Head Virgin Bath locality and turned on the PLSS (black & purple gridlines) and Active Mining Claims (pink) layers

Understanding the Public Land Survey System as it relates to Mining Claims

Before moving forward, it is important to understand in general the implementation of the Public Land Survey System (PLSS).  At the foundation of this survey framework there is a single initiation point for the survey; the east/west line going through this point is termed the Baseline, the north/south line is the Principle Meridian.  The entire survey “coordinates” are relative to this initial survey point and two lines.

A Township is a 36 square mile area (6 x 6 mile) box of land on the map and is referenced North or South of the Baseline.  A Range is a vertical column of Townships that is referenced East or West of the Principle Meridian line.  So in our forthcoming example of Devils Head, the Township/Range is T9S R70W, meaning 9 Townships south of the established Baseline, and 70 Townships west of the established Principle Meridian line.

Townships are further divided into 36 Sections (each a mile square).  A combination of Township, Range and Section will take you to any square mile of land that has been surveyed using the PLSS framework.  Finally, to get to the scale that Mining Claims are relevant within, a Section is subdivided into four quarter-Sections, each 1/4 mile, or 160 acres; these are referred to Section # and NE, NW, SE or SW.

Claims are documented at the quarter-Section scale and everything you will be doing with your prospecting map should be consistent with this scale.  Each claim’s Certificate of Location (COL) documentation will be referencing the quarter-section(s) they reside within.  So for our example, the Devils Head Virgin Bath locality, we’re interested in mining claims within the Township 9S, Range 70W and Sections 16, 20, 21, and 28 and the associated quarter-Sections.  Refer to the screen capture below to see all these coordinates on the map.  This PLSS layer on the BLM Interactive Map, if you zoom in far enough, breaks quarter sections into another 4 quarters; but claims do not go to that level of detail (thankfully, its already complex enough!).

BLM PLSS Map

This scale of the BLM Colorado Interactive Map shows the quarter-Sections, further divided into quarters but we will focus on the Quarter Sections.  The boxed quarter section in this map is Township 9S, Range 70W, Section 16, quarter-Section 16SW.

Researching which claims are in a quarter-Section

To get information for all the claims in the this locality, we’ll need to examine all the quarter-Sections in pink; in this case 10 total quarter-Sections.  For this example, we’ll use the quarter section 16SW and for each of the other nine quarter-Sections you will follow the same process.

Active Claims Header

Here is the pop-up box detailing the layer information, in this case Active Mining Claims.  Note that although it says there are 7 documents to display, only 3 claims are in this quarter section

As shown above, clicking anywhere in the quarter-Section will trigger a pop-up box detailing all the layer information (in this case Active Mining Claims) you’ve selected.  You’ll use the back and forth triangle controls in this box to advance through all the information on the Active Mining Claims within this quarter-Section.  I write down the CMC Case Number and Claim Name for each of the claims I require further detail for.

BLM Information

Here is the important information you will need for the BLM office, record the CMC # and the Claim Name.  Click this picture to enlarge as there is a lot of information displayed.

It is important at this point to note that we are looking at 160 acre quarter-Sections.  Lode claims are typically 20 acres or less, so you cannot find the exact location of the claim using this interactive map!  There is only one way to find the exact boundaries of claims, which is through the Certificate of Location (COL) document, detailed below.

Continue with this process throughout all the quarter-Sections in your prospecting area and write down all the CMC#s and associated Claim Names.  This will give you all the information you need to request the Certificate of Location documentation from the BLM or County Recorder’s offices.

Knowing a little bit about the filing process of a claim may help at this point.  The process of filing a claim says to file with the County Recorder’s Office first, then file with the BLM Office.  The BLM Office is what assigns the claim case number (CMC#), and often the COL document at the county lacks the CMC#, but does have the required claim name and the quarter-Section survey information.  I have another blog post that describes getting information from the County Recorder’s Office.  The official COL document is stored at the BLM office, so read on for the simple process of gathering this information from the BLM.

Acquiring the Certificates of Location from the BLM Office

You can get the claim’s Location Certificate from the BLM office by either visiting the office or by email.  If you visit the office they can make paper photocopies of the COL (Certificate of Location) which is cheaper than scanning (both will cost you an nominal amount, photocopies were $0.15 per page, scans $0.30 per page–January 2018 prices).  You could also take pictures with your phone or camera of these documents for free, assuming you are physically at the BLM office.  If you do the email route your only choice is obtaining the COL in electronic PDF format.

Here is what you do…

Send an email to CODOCKET@BLM.GOV, note that this is the email address specifically for the Colorado Office; inquire with the BLM by phone if you are researching somewhere else.  In the subject say you are requesting Mining Claim COL information.  In the email be sure to include your phone number so they can call you for credit card information–best practice is to not email your payment information.  Then include all the CMC#s and Claim Name information you are looking for and ask for the Certificate of Location document.

I found it was helpful to tell them I was creating a prospecting map so they know exactly what I was doing and they can ensure I got all the proper information.  Some of the maps I discovered in the COL document are beyond confusing–how people can file this way I don’t know–but the staff at the BLM office helped me by providing additional information for these couple of confusing cases because I told them my purpose.

I submitted my email inquiry on a Friday morning and I received my email of COL PDF attachments the following Monday, so super-quick turn-around in my opinion!  I don’t know if they have a standard turnaround time guarantee, I suppose it depends on how busy they are, vacation schedules, etc; you may ask them expected turnaround time in your email if you are in a hurry.

Creating your Prospecting Map

When you receive the scans from the BLM Office (or from the County Recorder’s office), you then can transpose the claim boundaries from the Certificate of Location (COL) document into your prospecting map.  This takes a little time as each person filing the claim may have surveyed their claim and submitted their map a little differently.  They key to make this an easy process is to ensure your destination map has PLSS survey points on it.

Preparing your Maps

If you are using Google Earth as your prospecting map, there is a PLSS overlay available and you may find that helpful; here are the BLM’s instructions for using it.  I use both Google Maps and paper topo maps to generate my prospecting maps, and neither has PLSS coordinate systems.  So to simplify this process I had to add PLSS coordinates onto my maps before I started.  Here is how i did it.

I opened up the BLM Colorado Interactive Map with only the PLSS layer turned on and found a point where a road (could be a stream, a valley, etc) intersected with the PLSS quarter-Section corner.  I then found and marked that quarter-Section point on my maps–my paper topo map with a pen “dot” and my Google Maps with a marker.  Knowing that a section is a mile on each side, and thus a quarter-Section is a 1/4-mile, I used a ruler on the paper map to create coordinate “dots” at 1/4-mile increments North/South and East/West of my original point.  I now had a quarter-Section PLSS coordinate system on my paper map.  On Google Maps, I did the same, except using their distance tool and markers.  It took me a while to figure this out but it sped up the process significantly having PLSS on all maps!

Another tip, I felt I needed to make some decisions on the accuracy required for my prospecting map. This is a personal preference decision.  I figured I need to know a general claim boundary on my prospecting map, not the exact corner post spots.  In the field, if I’m close to a claim on my map and I want to prospect, then I’ll search for the corner posts to ensure I’m not trespassing.  The purpose of my map is to generally plan where I intend to prospect.

Transposing the COL claim boundaries to your prospecting maps

I learned this from experience, so here’s another tip to think about before you start.  At first I added claim boundaries in the CMC# order; which is how they defaulted when I saved them in my folder.  I was bouncing all over my map which I found slow and tedious.  I found it much quicker and more accurate to pull up the trusty BLM Interactive Map again and loop through each claim a quarter-Section at a time.  I’d open and plot the COL’s by location rather than its number.  This let me get familiar with each quarter-Section of the map and plotted all claim boundaries for that area of the map before moving to the next quarter-Section.  It also helped when claims spanned quarter-Sections.

The standard way claims are surveyed is to first start with a known “tie point”, which by convention should always be something of the known PLSS survey framework, i.e. a corner point of a quarter-Section.  Then you use a measurement of degrees and distance from that tie point to one of the claim corners which is known as the claim’s corner point #1.   Then you further describe the outline of your claim in words, and also on a quarter-Section map.  Typically lode claims are 20 acres with dimensions of a 1500 feet by 600 feet in a parallelogram (typically rectangle); but the claim’s area can be smaller or it can be diagonal so ensure you read the description and look at their map.

COL Map

This map on the Claim’s Certificate of Location shows the claim’s borders, in this case it spans 4 quarter sections (16 SE and SW, 21 NE and NW). Remember you are looking at the quarter section scale!  It also shows the tie-point (stated as the shared corner of Sections 16,15,21,22) which is part of the PLSS survey framework.

Claim COL wording

The survey wording will tell you the tie point, how to get from that tie point on the PLSS survey framework to the claim’s corner #1, and then describes how to navigate the perimeter of the claim.

Using your Prospecting Map

Now you have a map you can take with you and help guide you in the field.  Note that the claimant is required to plant 6 corner/side posts securely in the ground to clearly mark the boundaries of their claim.  Sometimes the claim owner will neglect to do this, or vandals remove the posts, or the posts simply fall down for whatever reasons.  Regardless, it is the rock hound’s responsibility to know the claims in the area they are prospecting and to not mineral trespass on those claims. But no worries because you have a prospecting map!

One other consideration is that new claims are filed all the time, there is processing time at the BLM, and claims are periodically closed.  Unfortunately, as soon as you have created a prospecting map is it is likely outdated. How I deal with this is the night before I head out prospecting, I dive into the BLM’s Interactive Map and verify the claims filed are the ones I have on my map–if there are changes I note this on my map.  When I’m prospecting I also keep an keen eye on the landscape looking for posts; even if it is a place I recently have been, things could have changed since the last time I was there.  Finally, I update my prospecting maps several times a year and grab the new COLs using the outlined process above.

Good luck out there!

January 2018’s Blue Supermoon

January 2018 brought us a special celestial treat, the Blue Supermoon, or Super Blood Red Moon eclipse.  The blue part just states that it is the second full moon in a single month.  The Supermoon part is when the moon is closest to the earth in its orbit, this time about 14% bigger and 30% brighter!  Blood Red is the total eclipse part.  This was a rare event and worth getting up for.

I set the alarm for about 4am but realized that the article I read was in Pacific Time Zone, so I was an hour early.  This was good, however, as it was a warm night and it gave me some time to experiment with my camera’s settings without the rush of being in the eclipse.  The morning was hazy but the moon was shining through.  There were clouds that passed over that covered the moon; so not perfect but not a total bummer either!

Once the moon went into totality, it got very dim.  At the same time it was low enough on the horizon that it went behind the lenticular clouds that often form in the winter over the mountains.  At this point it was game over; but still an awesome show!

Aspen prints

The second try, with 20×16 horizontals.  I went ahead and duplicated some of the image since it will be 3+ feet away from each other on the wall.

Here was the first try, with 16×20 verticals.

I’m thinking we can do each @ 16×20 vertical.  Costco prices it around $110 plus any other fees for metal.

Obliq Museum: Roland Super JX-10 Restoration

In the early 1990’s I was in my first band called Neurotricity.  My band partner had an amazing synthesizer studio and the heart of the studio was the Roland Super JX-10 synthesizer.  We used that synth for both sounds and also central MIDI control for recording into the computer.  I have fond memories of using that synthesizer.

Throughout my synth hunting over the last 20+ years I have kept an eye open for this synth to pick up for my studio.  I had a lead on a beat up one several years back, but the person wanted more than I thought it was worth given its condition as it had been gigged a lot.  Several years ago I found a Roland JX-8P with a PG-800 programmer and I picked that up.  The JX-8P is basically 1/2 of a Roland Super JX-10 and I’ve been enjoying the synth, especially programming it with the PG-800 accessory; it is difficult (but not impossible) to program in the little window and alpha-dial that this vintage of synthesizer provided.  I was content with this JX-8P and figured if I found a JX-10 that would be great; but didn’t think I’d ever run across one so I had the next best thing.

Several months ago I happened upon a Roland Super JX-10 in excellent shape.  The person I bought it from never gigged with it; it was basically a home studio toy that had been put away in a closet for many years while the owner explored other hobbies and interests.  There was one dead key, but otherwise it was fully functional.

In researching what it would take to fix the dead key, I came across several really great websites that explored the Super JX-10; there was one that caught my eye–Fred Vecoven’s site–where he reversed engineered the firmware and rewrote it fixing bugs and added new features.  One of the features was an arpeggiator, and I decided I must upgrade my JX-10!

The video below shows how I fixed the keyboard contact and how I installed the new firmware.  With the PG-800 and the new firmware, this Roland Super JX-10 is a beast of a synthesizer that I can already tell will provide tons of enjoyment in sound design!

Stag Party

I’ve been seeing a large group of bucks roaming through the neighborhood, but they’ve never been close to the road (don’t want to trespass) or I haven’t had my camera.  I was heading home from the post office and saw two of these guys close enough to take pictures of from the road, so I ran home, grabbed my camera, and hoped when I got back they hadn’t wandered off.  Luckily I live about 3 minutes from where they were.

On the way back, I noted the big guy had arrived for the party.  There were a total of 4 bucks in the area today, I was able to shoot 3 of them.  These animals live on private land so they have no fear of cars; but they don’t like walkers and especially dogs.  So they are fun to watch.

Wyoming Solar Eclipse

Wyoming Solar Eclipse.  August 21, 2017.  We knew the crowds would be large, we knew the traffic would be bad, but we had to go anyway…it was just too close to miss.  August 21st brought the total solar eclipse through the middle of Wyoming.  My sister, dad and I decided to witness it first hand.

Wyoming Eclipse

My family stayed with my folks that weekend, they live on the Colorado side of the Wyoming border up near Red Feather Lakes.  The plan was for my sister to come up and meet my dad and I near the Wyoming border on 287.  We’d carpool from there.  The target was south of Casper on BLM land, staying clear of the I-25 corridor.  There we’d be in the center of the shadow for the longest totality without the crowds.

We drove on Wyoming 487 and there was a good amount of traffic so we jumped off onto Wyoming 77 and was just looking for a nice spot with a good view.  Just so happened we hit the Shirley Ridge which had an amazing 360 view, and only two other cars were there.  We got there a couple of hours early.

Eclipse Roadtrip Map

Here was our target area. We jetted over to 77 once we realized the popularity of 487.

Since we were early, we set up our cameras and then I started wandering around looking at rocks.  There were agates and jaspers laying everywhere!  Cool.  So a rock hound and celestial road trip together!  Can’t beat that!

Shirley Basin Agates and Jaspers

Agates and Jaspers were everywhere.

For the photography buffs out these, here was my setup.  I had a Sony Alpha with 2x teleconverter and 70-200mm lens zoomed.  That gives me 400mm, and then I used APS-C mode on the camera to give me another boost to 600mm.  My dad had purchased a solar viewing film and I had that taped on the lens hood with painters tape to not leave residue.  All of this was on a tripod which was a lot of weight, but luckily the mirrorless cameras are light in comparison and it didn’t get too windy so I felt we were safe.

Photography Setup

The setup, my Sony Alpha (covered with a cloth to prevent overheating in the direct sun) with a solar filter taped to the hood.  On the screen it shows a picture of the eclipse at about 75%.

My plan was to take pictures every 3 minutes both coming into and leaving the eclipse and then during totality I would remove the lens hood, refocus, and take shots at different settings to capture all the different features of the totality.  All of this worked except one thing, I realized about half way into the waning of the eclipse that I was out of focus.  I didn’t realize that my focal point was the film several inches off of the end of the lens (affixed to the lens hood).  So I didn’t focus correctly getting many of the waning shots.  Oh well, rookie mistake.

taken from mreclipse.com

Taken from the Mr. Eclipse article on photographing eclipses, this is an amazing article that everyone interested should read!

Leading up to the totality the birds and crickets started to sing and make noise as if it was dusk.  There were no trees so we didn’t see the kaleidoscopic effect that others saw which would have been amazing.  It also got considerably cooler, fast, and the winds started to blow adding to the chill factor.

Start of Eclipse Chill Out

My dad Alex and sister Kristy chilling out as the Eclipse was starting.  You can see all the people that got at this site after we did; but we were all very comfortably spaced out.

During totality it was a scramble, I was taking many shots with different settings per Mr. Eclipse‘s chart above and then I sat the camera down and just observed.  What was cool was the 360 degree view we had, and the 360 degree color spanning the horizon!

Solar Eclipse moon shadow

During totality, looking NE towards Casper-ish. You can see the shadow of the moon in the clouds! That was really one of the coolest things about the eclipse is watching the shadow progress across the horizon.

Sun before the eclipse started

Here is the sun at the start of the eclipse. You can see some spots.

Final picture before totality

Here is one of the last shots I took before removing the lens hood with the filter affixed. From the next several minutes I explored different settings and took a bunch of pictures. Focus was a bit of a challenge as infinity was blurry.

Solar Eclipse corona

Here is a picture of the corona. Taken at f/8, 1/80 sec, ISO-100 at 600mm.

Final picture total totality

This was the last picture I took without the filter. f/8, 1/125 sec, ISO-100 @600mm.

Diamond Ring Solar Eclipse Totality

Here is the “diamond ring” feature of the totality. I’m pretty satisfied how this one turned out!

Chalk Cliffs, Shirley Basin, Wyoming

Here were the chalk cliffs which was the only feature on the horizon that is on google maps.

The trip home wasn’t too bad, although there was about an hour backup on 487 because of the stop sign in Medicine Bow at US 287.  But the state troopers had that engineered well and traffic slowly flowed through and no-one had to completely stop.

You can see the line of cars, looks like ants, on the horizon. This was no where near as bad as I-25 was. Good choice to my sister and dad on this route!

horny toad

We found this little horny toad lizard wondering around.

2017’s Music Highlights

First, mad respect to ourselves!  Here is new music from our crews…

Chillout Enforcement Crew’s “Acid LuAu” 7”.  Obliq Recordings #17

2017 was tremendous fun with this new project.  The crew has an open door policy to spark collaboration and creativity; with the foundation upon bringing just enough gear to get by, and imrpov is the core virtue.  We had 6 great shows and twice as many studio sessions to get this project rolling.  We’re celebrating the Earth’s wobble with four 7” releases packaged in retro 8” floppy diskettes.  #1 is a Polynesian party track, on acid.  The tracks are free digitally, so it would be pretty damn old-man style lame if we don’t have 5 more downloads before Xmas.

 

_entrancer’s “No Borders” cassette.  Obsolete Future #14

Great acid record.  Think Recondite style, but not so formulized, and much more chill.  Great for Sundays!

 

The Howling Hex’s lathe cut 7”.  White label

Contact me for more information on getting this release.

Great track!  Enjoying the amazing packaging and release over the last month, it’s a late-comer to 2017; get it while you can, ultra-limited.

 

Multicast’s “Multicaster” CD+Zine.  Obliq Recordings #16


IFJ stenciled artwork

Front covers, both multi-color stenciled artwork!Multicast’s best work to date, included is an amazing little Iron Feather Journal magazine from Japan.  Cross-Pacific collaboration.  Zine features Multicast’s Phonographic Toys collection, don’t miss it if you are a vinyl freak; there’s some serious history for you waiting!  Ambient, Acid, Experimental!

Can’t be that bad, we’ve had about 15k views on YouTube.

 

Now on to some other favs of 2017!

Dopplereffekt’s “Cellular Automata”.  Leisure System.

Cinematic robot tunes.  This is an amazing collection of electro, sci-fi, cinematic tunes.  Their early Eps all were dancefloor driven; but their albums are more ambient and melodic!  Think Blade Runner 2049 caliber sci-fi and you’re on the right track.

 

Raymond Scott’s “THREE WILLOW PARK: Electronic Music from Inner Space, 1961-1971”.  Basta.

http://www.raymondscott.net/three-willow-park/

This year brought the re-release of the outstanding “Manhattan Research Inc” on colored wax (if you don’t have this, hurry).  But Three Willow Park tops my top pick list!  It has 61 unreleased gems across 3 slabs of wax.  Each wax is in its own gatefold sleeve with tons of great photos and information.  This release explores a very exciting and innovative time for pioneer Raymond Scott, and electronic music in general.  He had already invented the machines for electronic music composition (long before Moog and Buchla) and was mastering his craft during this period—as others were just getting started.  By this time he was self-employed and had full creative and innovative freedom to explore the future!  This release includes works using the Electronium—the machine using “programmed intelligence”.   Amazing stuff here.

 

Raymond Scott’s “Soothing Sounds For Baby”.  Basta.

http://www.musiconvinyl.com/catalog/raymond-scott/soothing-sounds-for-baby-vols-1-3#.WjZSzkqnGUl

This is a re-release, remastered on heavy-weight colored wax, but another amazing electronic music gem.  Raymond was a heavy influence on heroes, just to name a few, Froese, Eno, Fripp, Kraftwerk, Glass, Multicast…  These records were intended to be played by the mother to the baby at three critical phases of life.  0-6 months, 6-12 months, and 12-18 months.  If you change “months” to “decades”, they still work as intended!

 

Aphex Twin’s “3 Gerald Remix / 24 TSIM 2”.  Technical Equipment Supply.

https://www.discogs.com/Aphex-Twin-3-Gerald-Remix-24-TSIM-2/release/10452636

Vinyl is going through a renaissance, with LED lights inside of records, colored wax becoming an artform, animated records coming back into style, and new and crazy distribution tactics.  Richard James is a man of ideas, and in 2017 he released two singles that are difficult for the collector.  His new tactic is to have limited releases from small, independent record stores to help keep the passionate entrepreneurs thriving!  This release was only available from the small store in Ypsilanti, Michigan and cannot be sold mail-order.  You either have to visit the store, or find an expensive one second hand.  The tracks are good, making this release worth the effort!

 

“Evil Dead 2 OST”.  Waxwork Records.

https://waxworkrecords.com/products/evil-dead-2?variant=30413229125

This movie started me down a one-way path.  Thinking we were just going to see a slasher style movie on the silver screen, well, our minds were expanded, quickly!  This movie likely has the entire dialog sampled in one industrial song or another, but the music was great too, even though you didn’t notice it.  This is a wonderful package including some psychedelic colored vinyl.  A trip down memory lane.

 

Guerilla Toss’s “G T Ultra”.  DFA.

“I’ve driving a car, but I’m not the owner”.  The other 1/2 of Multicast, Jeff, can relate!  With an album cover featuring a sheet of acid, this was worth checking out.  This NYC band reminds me of a cross between Chicks on Speed and The B-52s without Fred Schnider; with a funkier core.  This was my soundtrack to my European journey this summer.  This could be my top pick of the year, still a couple of tabs left on this release…saving them for friends.

 

J Dubular’s “View from the Summit”. 

My buddy here in the hood has an amazing view from his porch, and we often just decompress gazing 50 miles down the front range onto Lookout Mountain.  My buddy Jim is a reggae aficionado (see soundcloud’s ReggaeDispensory) so we constantly search out Dub for the porch.  This was one of those records from Colorado band (Idaho Springs) J dubular.  Warm breeze, sunset, porch, relaxation, stunning view soundtrack!

 

UHF’s “Strange days of Happiness” EP.  Borg Recordings.

This hails from Spain on UK’s Borg Recordings label.  Those that know me know I love electro (not that house crap, real electro with its roots in the early 80s hip-hop culture), and this is a melodic foray into heavy bass.  I can’t count the number of sunrises I’ve seen this year to this soundtrack.  Perfect for the commute!

 

N-TER’s “Falling Apart” EP.  Crobot Muzik.

Another electro slasher, this time out of London.  The label is amazing, found it on bandcamp this last year.  Melodies on top of BASS breaks.  This one is more for sunsets, or maybe just the deepest darkness of night as the sliver of crescent moon arises!

 

Recondite’s “Theater II” EP.  Dystopian.

One of the top acts in techno, travelling the world from festival to festival.  This is a stray from his typical Plastikman legato acid style, and a trip into deeper techno.  I described it as “Intense Sci-fi soundtrack intertwined with deliberate driving beats.  Excellent mood and production.”  I will someday hear this on a large sound system, and that will make me very happy!

 

Ceephax Acid Crew’s “Acid Fourniture” & “Byron’s Ballads” EPs.  Weme Records.

Someone once said “This is not a mind trip, it is a body journey”.  These EPs falls within that realm.  London’s Mr Ceephax released two Eps the same day this winter, and both are great!  Worth checking out!

 

1NC1N’s “Praying Mantis” EP.  Zodiak Commune Records.

Another latecomer to 2017, this is a rock solid acidic dancefloor EP.  High quality production, both in the sound and the vibe, demonstrating that Acid music is still on a plateau overlooking the vast spaces of other dance music.

 

Human League’s “Travelogue”.  Virgin

https://www.discogs.com/The-Human-League-Travelogue/master/643

Had to mention this amazing album has been re-issued on heavy-weight vinyl and remastered.  The band’s 2nd record was released in early 1980 and has stood the test of time.  This was before they ditched half of the band for two female vocalists and a contract with the devil; back when they were pushing the experimental boundaries of early synth-pop!  A classic!

 

This year’s bootlegs worth noting…

The Cure.  Period.  This year has been an amazing year for demos and live sets being released (or re-released) on vinyl.  What’s up with Discogs not allowing “Fan Club Vinyl” to be sold anymore?  Does every cool website have to sell out to the MPAA and RIAA still, in this day and age?  Well, there is still a distribution channel or two, once again it heads underground!

The Cure – Forever. 

https://www.discogs.com/The-Cure-Forever/master/1086713

Demos and Unreleased material from 1980-1983.  Killer!

 

The Cure – The Wailing Demos. 

https://www.discogs.com/The-Cure-The-Wailing-Demos/master/1203041

More demos from their golden era.  Killer!

 

The Cure – Grinding Halt & 10:15 Saturday Night.

https://www.discogs.com/Cure-Grinding-Halt/master/765075

https://www.discogs.com/Cure-1015-Saturday-Night/master/765074

Live show from 10 June 1981, Mensa Morgenstelle, Tübingen, Germany.  Two vinyl set released separately.  Man what a great set!  Raw!  Soundboard!  Picked this up in Belfast.

 

The Cure – Disintegration in Cokeland. 

https://www.discogs.com/The-Cure-Disintegration-In-Cokeland/master/1187158

Another pickup from Belfast.   This is the pink vinyl version.  Soundboard from their second golden period 9/9/89 in Oakland’s Coliseum.

 

The Cure – World War.

https://www.discogs.com/The-Cure-World-War-Rare-Demos/master/1174763

These are some rare demos across their first couple of years.  Great stuff!

 

The Cure – Pillbox Tales.

https://www.discogs.com/Cure-Pillbox-Tales-1977-1979/release/2594094

This is really early stuff, from when they were “Easy Cure”.  This is more rock oriented before Robert came into his own.  But still worth hearing where they came from.  That said, glad they went down a one-way road!

The Leo Pocket – Large Colorado Smokey Quartz

The season of Scorpio often brings good luck to me in the Colorado Rockies, and this year I was treated with a special find (large quartz crystals)!  As most rock hounds probably experience, as you gain experience you think of old places you’ve dug and the potential for those spots still producing crystals now that you know what you didn’t during the original dig.

Leo Pocket Point

This otherwise drab (likely microcline) rock was coated with secondary crystal points. Really interesting growth pattern too.

There was a spot I found many years ago where I found a couple of floater crystals that were so-so and I abandoned that dig site prospecting for lusher areas.  I have always wondered, what if I dug deeper in that spot?  I didn’t think I dug deep enough but I always wondered if it would be worth the effort to try that area again as it was a bit of a hike with several steep hills.  So I have been thinking about this spot now and again over the years and I finally decided to prospect that area again.

In early November I went out on a crisp morning and found myself in the area of this dig.  I wasn’t having any luck prospecting, so I decided what the hell, I need to resolve this once and for all, so I hiked back to that spot.  I reclaim all my digs and after many years away they have grown back the ground cover and looked good, which was pleasing.  I ended up digging in the area that I had long thought about, and within about 30 minutes starting hitting some signs.

The area had some large rocks and as I dug around them I started to see some darker coloration, which ended up being pegmatite.  Digging into that started to produce some flats and faces and it wasn’t long before the first crystal popped out, maybe a foot underground and in a peg seam.  After the initial crystal I started to see the seam open up and then experienced some harder clay.  Only once have I hit a really thick clay, but I could tell right away that experience was happening again.

Leo Pocket plate

This plate came out in 3 pieces which is repaired above.  The main part of the plate was at the top of the pocket, as seen in the video. The left crystal had sunk to the bottom of the pocket after it was shattered off, you can see me pull it out in the video immediately before I pulled out the larger healed crystal toward the end.  The upper right piece was also at the bottom of the pocket.  It pays to save all pieces and parts.

Working in the clay requires metal tools, there is no way you can get it out with your fingers or even wooden material.  I have a dulled screwdriver just for these times.  I started to pull out quartz crystals but they were all heavily overgrown with a brownish, sharp milky quartz-type crystal.  It wasn’t coming off, that’s for sure, and I thought perhaps it would require a little soaking o loosen up the overcoating.  So I continued to dig and starting pulling out some really nice crystals, but it was VERY slow going and somewhat tedious on the fingers and wrists due to the clay.

As I continued to dive down with the pocket, the clay got thicker and the crystals got bigger!  It finally ended up where there were many large crystals all at the bottom of the pocket.  I could tell the pocket collapsed because I found bits and pieces of broken crystals in between these larger ones that matched up to crystal parts I was finding at the top of the pocket.

The crystals all have several stages of growth.  Most are coated with a brownish quartz like coating.  I could tell there was microcline in the pocket, but it appears to have all been corroded away and the replaced on all the smokey quartz throughout the pocket.  Must have been some acidic stuff in the pocket during its creation!

Leo Pocket Point

This crystal is typical of almost all crystals in this pocket. Multiple layers of additional growth on the original smokey quartz. It is very difficult to remove–this has been soaking in SIO baths for a while, and a water gun does nothing. I will attempt mechanical means as soon as I get that available to me. But the crystal is GEMMY inside!

Needless to say, these crystals are going to be VERY difficult to clean.  Super Iron Out has pulled some of the coating off; leaving behind a harder, sharp layer of quartz type coating.  I was able to shine a light through the side of a quartz, and the big crystals I found are all typically very gemmy inside–at least those I could peer into.  So I am looking into an abrasive solution to help make some of these large, beautiful smokey quartz crystals shine!

This was one of the largest pockets I have found, definitely the largest by far this year.

If you have any tips to help me clean these, I’d love to hear your suggestions.  Note that I put a couple of crap crystals in a beaker of fully concentrated muriatic acid and it did clear the brown off, the quartz-like coating did not get touched.

Leo Pocket micro crystals

This was on a very small piece that I am not sure why I brought home…typically if in question it comes home to get a rinse. It was covered with tiny crystals as seen in this macro shot!