Went up to Devils Head with the Lake George Gem and Mineral Club to do some pickin’ today. Last week the Fire Watch Tower / Campground area was hit with a EF0/EF1 tornado (max wind 90 mph, 500 yards long, 100 yards wide max) and is currently closed due to all the snapped trees. Luckily we didn’t go to that area and could continue with the field trip.
We went to the area east of the Topaz Picnic Area, near the old topaz mine and claims. I hadn’t had much luck in this area in the past, but it was good to hang out with like-minded folks and give it another try. I prospected an area that was level on the hillside with many other digs (this area is heavily dug) about 40 feet away, and about 40 feet or so below a really old dig. My goal was to either hope to find the pegmatite dike or perhaps find some float.
Immediately I found a clear quartz that was healed. I had to look carefully because it was amazingly clear and gemmy like topaz, but the growth lines on the crystal faces were perpendicular to the axis through the point and it had a quartz shape, so no go on my first topaz at Devils Head.
Dig area, following the float uphill
For those that often ask me what I’m looking for, this is something I didn’t find much online or in the books. This technique is just what I’ve figured out and there could be much better ways to prospect, but this will at least give you something to try the next time you are up digging if you are looking for things to try…
I scrape off the top soil to see what is at the boundry of the top soil and gravel layers…or “float”.
Clear Quartz in the sunlight makes it look like Topaz…
I continued to dig uphill (in the picture above I ended about 10 feet above the trees at the top of the photo) and as I got close to the old dig the quartz started to get larger. I was finding float, or quartz that is below the organic layer of dirt and above the gravel, or about up to 6 inches below the surface. Once I hit the clear quartz I started to dig around that, and then when I hit the first double terminated crystal I was able to form a trajectory up the hill and continued in that general direction. It took a little while to figure out the direction but once I did the area I had to prospect was smaller making the process quicker.
The double terminated smaller quartz was the second I found, and the larger double terminated quartz was the last I found at this location. Not pictured are all the shaped pieces of quartz (but not fully euhedral) that kept me on the chase up the hill.
Milky quartz crystals found while digging the float. The large one on the upper right was double terminated and so was the one in the lower left. The two in the middle show gemmy smoky quartz under the milky coating.
Double Terminated crystal shows several periods of growth. Original was likely to the pegmatite ceiling or floor, then it broke off and was healed (you can see this clearly on the other face).
Other folks were also having luck so it was a great day, the folks next to me pulled out a nice 4 inch smoky quartz! After my hole was filled in I got up to check out the finds of other folks, but most folks had already left, no wonder it had gotten quiet! I chatted with one other person who was in a small pocket in a very large dig and he had some nice crystals too.
I decided to try another spot and started to dig again after having lunch. Here I was able to find a small seam in harder pegmatite that produced some nice twin smoky quartz and some light blue amazonite crystal faces.
Overall a fun day pickin’ at Devils Head!
Smoky Quartz found in second location. The 4 crystals at the right were sidewall type crystals (the backs on a couple are not terminated). They were all found in a seam of pegmatite, not a pocket with sand, so it took a while to excavate from the small area.
You can see the white overgrowth on the otherwise gemmy smoky quartz
Amazonite found in the second location. More bluish than traditional green in color.
One thing about Devils Head crystals is they almost always need a bath as they have iron oxide staining, especially the amazonite/microcline. These photos above are of the crystals just rinsed of with water, showing exactly how they look when fresh out of the ground! The photos below are after a week of heated oxalic acid bath.
Soaked in a chemical bath for a week. Still some staining, but looking nicer!
Twin Smoky Quartz with lots of iron staining…needs a bath! Looks like it could be gemmy!
Nice etched polka dot patterns on the point!
Needs a good cleaning, but this Smoky Quartz is gemmy and also has some nice small crystal growth on the point. The back side is also terminated..really close to being a double terminated crystal!
Love the little gemmy crystal on the termination