I have been wanting a Korg Triton synthesizer since they were released in 1999. At that time I had a Korg Trinity which we used heavily, as you may have heard in our Multicast tracks. The Triton has a built in sampler and expansion available for MOSS functionality (Korg Prophecy engine), which I’m now on the market for!
I found a Triton on Craigslist but it had some issues. The price was right so I went ahead and took the challenge of hopefully being able to find the issue and then fix it. I know that Triton parts are getting hard to find since it was discontinued. It has the two memory cards and also the EXB-PCM04 Dance Extreme expansion board. So an awesome setup once I get it fixed!
Korg Triton as it was when I brought it home, you can see the issue with the one “E” key
Here is the sketchy power. The whole assembly was broken and the power button was gone.
The person I bought it from was a vet and this synth had seen the desert and likely many other places upon this earth! It likely brought joy to many, so the karma is good! The plastic buttons and modulation joystick assembly were all heavily discolored, likely due to sitting in intense sunlight for a long period of time. There is no way to fix the plastic discoloration issue without replacing all those pieces, which would be very expensive (if you could find the parts) and given that is cosmetic I’m not overly concerned. Part of the character of buying a used synthesizer!
Here were the problems that I diagnosed that needed fixed:
Power assembly was completely broken, but still worked
E Key was broken
Something in the I/O boards were broken causing the touchscreen to now work properly
Several screws were missing and/or were not seated properly (cosmetic)
The big issue was the touchscreen issue. You couldn’t choose the drop-down menu (upper right) which rendered the synth very unusable. Upon troubleshooting this I found that it was a slider issue. The likely culprit was the Value slider. I found a replacement slider online but I wasn’t sure it was just the slider. I cleaned the slider but it still didn’t work, so I assumed it was the slider but I wanted to find a replacement of the 2085 control board if possible.
I found all the parts for the power assembly new at Keyboard Kountry (check them out, they have a great stock of replacement parts for Tritons and other keyboards). I also bought a replacement set of screws since some were missing and others were slightly stripped. Nice that they offered this! They also had the “E” key for a great price.
The 2085 board was a different story…there were no boards available on the internet that I could find, except one I found in Austria on eBay. I’ve had mixed results buying used parts on eBay in the past, but the seller had a good feedback rating and said it was 100% working, so I took a chance and purchased the board. It took 2 weeks to arrive.
Here are the boards after I removed them. The upper right is the jack board, the upper center is the 2085 human interface board and the lower tray holds the CPUs.
The keyboard assembly, the bottom (with floppy drive attached) and main control board still attached to the chassis.
Reference photos showing the headphone jack connection (there are two small sockets on the jack board that are the same, so I wanted to be sure to remember what went where)
Reference photo showing the wiring of the jacks and wiring harnesses
Reference photo of the main motherboard wiring
The parts came in within a couple of weeks, and I started to do the repair and reassembly work. The power assembly was simple, two screws and a simple plug into the power supply PCB. That took 5 minutes and now works like a charm!
Power assembly showing the jack into the PCB. Simple replacement; nice to find a full assembly with button at Keyboard Kountry!
Power looks much better and is safe!
To replace the broken key, you have to remove the keyboard assembly entirely, which is a bit of effort! At the top of the keys there is a plastic clip that sits along the entire assembly. Sliding this off, you now have room to slide the key upwards and it will pop right out. Putting the new key in is the same, in reverse. Then re-position the clip and you’re good to go!
Most keyboards are similar to this, there is a plastic “clip” that sits on the back edge of the keyboard assembly, removing this provides a small amount of space that allows enough room to slide the keys back and they will pop out
This shows the broken key from the back, the plastic guides should be showing like the other white keys; those were busted off and the key needed replaced
If you are missing a key entirely, you MUST make sure you get that metal insert–this replacement key didn’t come with one so I got lucky that I already had it! Without this metal piece the key will not work properly. If you are replacing the key like I am, you transfer this metal to the new key. Notice the broken plastic guides that render the key useless
The most difficult part of the reassembly was the wiring. I noted this and added some tape with reference letters to help me remember where the harnesses attached to. Note that the wiring is “just long enough” to reach its destinations, so that also helps with reassembly, as does the different amounts of wires in the sockets/jacks–only a couple were the same size and coupled with the wire length being exact it made it easier to know what went where. But given there are a lot of wiring, reference shots and labeling as you disassemble are always a good idea!
There are two small audio connectors on this jack board. I highlighted here (in red) the headphones jack that runs to the front, lower left, of the unit.
Now the Korg Triton is fully functional! Awesome! The sounds are killer and I’m just starting to play with the synthesis engine! The unit was pretty dirty so i scrubbed it down and was able to pull off some of the grime; but unfortunately there are many scratches that are more than skin deep and again that is the “character” you get when buying synthesizers second hand!
Overall this restoration project consumed about 8 hours of time and parts cost a little over $100. Parts are getting difficult to find, however, and so even if the synth isn’t “vintage” it may still be a difficult restoration project…note to self! I got lucky on this one that I was able to procure all the parts immediately without having to put together repetitive web searches like I’ve done for other classic synthesizers in the past!
Here are some great resources for the Korg Triton:
February 3rd 2017 was a cold, brisk morning in Larkspur. We had a good fog all night and the temperature went down to 15 degrees in the morning. I started my daily journey toward the megalopolis while dawn was just unfolding and I felt the urge to turn around to grab my camera. It was beautiful out!
So, I turned around and went back home and grabbed the camera. Along the first 5 miles of my route I stopped many times and took some photos. I then was treated to an elk herd that was in plain view so I stopped and watched them for a while.
A fun start to my drive to work! As always these photos are previews, click on the photo for a larger version.
My road home
More on Crull Cabin… http://larkspurhistoricalsociety.org/?page_id=1174
I was happy with the bokah effect on this shot!
I especially like this picture with the frost on the scrub oak.
I’ve always been a fan of Electronic Air over its 21 year history, and I was invited in late 2016 to become part of the crew. I will be a substitute DJ and fill in for the regulars when they need a break from the action.
I have been away from radio DJing for over 20 years and am really excited to be part of this amazing crew, and to DJ again. Tune in, it will be great!
Here is the teaser I pushed out with one day to go…
As part of becoming a KGNU Community Radio volunteer DJ one must create a demo and then do one of the late night shows. My first late night show was Sleepless Nights on the morning of January 22, 2017 from midnight to 3am.
It was a very fun show, I was pretty tired as I don’t stay up this late usually, but fun. I broadcast out of the Santa Fe Arts District in Denver Colorado. Hour one was post-punk and cold-wave, hour two was Acid, and hour three was a little bit of everything electronic.
A holiday tradition is to create a top music list for the year. A group of old DJ friends and I push around our favorites and then rate each other on stuff we’ve never heard. The rule is 10 albums, so I added 20 releases. Typically its the hipster millennials that have all the “cool” obscuro stuff no-one has ever heard of, but sometimes us old guys punch in a surprise or two…
Here’s 2015’s list for those that missed it, or for those just wanting to hear some more classic tunes!
Top Album of the Year
Multicast – Multicaster + Iron Feather Journal #21
Out comes the collective work of Multicast from the last 10 years. Released as a limited edition with the Iron Feather Journal #21 produced in Japan. Starts off Chill, then gets tense and Acidic, and ends in Chill. Just when you thought the genre had played out since every hipster has a 303 knock off, acid techno with the real vintage machines as only Multicast can pull off!
Check out the article I wrote for the zine describing my collection of Vintage Phonographic Toys! I’m sure not complete, but pretty comprehensive if you’re into dropping needles!
World famous material-disco-man Peter Brown puts together an amazing sci-fi adventure to the acid beats of Multicast’s Faster and Faster off of the newest album Multicaster. Entertainment beyond the borders of Earth! Check it in HD!
Top Single of the Year
Room 506 – Red Embers / Drop Out
Someone put some cool old footage in these videos, kudos. The popular track is Drop Out, which is an industrial and techno dance floor smasher! Love it, but I prefer the flip side, Red Embers, which to me is a spell! That is probably my top track of the year. The vinyl was limited to 500 gorgeous orange marbled vinyl with a straight black repress. Shipped from Germany for $5, not sure how the seller figured that out! I got one of both! 🙂
Top EP Of The Year
Etapp Kyle – Lyrae
I love the melodic lines through these moderate dance tracks. The b-side is my favorite but both sides are great! Etapp Kyle has some great podcasts and other EPs out that are good; but not great like this release on Klockworks.
Top Remix of the Year
The Soft Moon – Without (Codex Empire Remix)
The Soft Moon album Deeper is a great concept cyberpunk album. Vocals on Electronic Body Music. Definitely a highlight find from last year. The remix album is great; almost every track is a cold warehouse dancefloor killer. Alternative. Wear your black!
Top Package of the Year
Twin Peaks Original Score by Angelo Badalamenti
Check out a great review with pictures here. Been 25 years and this soundtrack stands the test of time! All year rumors on and off about a new season; we’ll see if it ever happens! The packaging is nice. Die cut cover with a gatefold album that slips out. The die cut shows the zigzag pattern of the famous carpet. Inside the gatefold is a heavyweight multicolor-marbled brown vinyl that sounds delightful as it looks.
The owls are not what they seem!
Top Local Band of the Year
Sister Grotto – You Don’t Have to Be A House To Be Haunted
I first saw our sister of the underground labyrinths when she opened for Mark McGuire several years back. Her soft-gaze sound put me under a spell and I would have probably robbed a bank if she commanded it. This limited cassette release has three deeply emotional and beautiful tracks. As the title states, quite Haunting! The choir on the opener is a great production!
Love this show, had it on MP3 for a long time and found this vinyl in 2016. I often wonder how many midnight runs go through the record plants unchecked. Thank you record pressing plant dudes that actually care deeply about collectors! Grey Marbled Vinyl!
Israel, Halloween, Spellbound, Arabian Knights, Placebo Effect, Headcut, Sin In My Heart, Voodoo Dolly, Happy House. A great era for the band!
Other Great Albums of 2016
Schonwald – Between Parallel Lights
I find I listen to this album weekly over the course of the year. It is definitely modern post-punk. Definitely for fans of early Clan of Xymox, Cocteau Twins, The Cure and Siouxsie in the Banshees. The first track “Inland” is the favorite; but one of those albums that lacks a filler track. I love all of their albums and singles; a very solid band who I’m hoping comes to play Colorado soon!
mitra mitra – self titled
Luscious synth and great female vocals on this post-punk, a coldwave classic! Fans of Chris & Cosey and The Normal take note!
Trentemoller – Fixion
His last 4 albums have been all great; saw him in concert in 2015 and that was great. He’s coming to Denver again in March, I’ll be there with you? This album has great melody, post-punk basslines and great female vocal collaborations. A variety of styles mixed in on this overall great record!
Uskmatu – Whisper in a Dream
One of my favorite ex-local producers, Roy England, planted this album on us in 2016! It is a dub tech excursion with female vocals courtesy of Fatima Lily. Great vibe on this album, excellent sounds and wonderful mastering. Remember to Make Mistakes, formally Dope!
Memorex – Tape Two
What a solid release, excellent synth melodies and counter-melodies throughout, hard to pick a single favorite track! Killer limited cassette release! For fans of post-punk and cold wave!
PERSON:A – Matters
This year’s been great for alternative post-punk albums, and this is a great one. I’d call the style Cyberpunk. Dark, Cold Beats.
Great EPs and Singles I found in 2016
Univac – Voltage EP
Simple electro beats from the soundtrack of aliens invading the planet. Classic detroit style electro funk on this French label classic! I believe all the classic old school computers are now used for techno band names!
Application – Front End (Remixed by Pye Corner Audio)
This is what happens when Black Dog meets Pye Corner Audio. I love this electronica remix for its emotion and melodies full of delay and cheer! Great melodies throughout, a classic!
Rrose – Vanishing Pools
Was turned onto Rrose in 2016. Sound design is the theme for all tracks, some drone and some minimal tech. Wonderful sounds and mastering on these tension tracks!
Drvg Cvltvre & Umvelt – Rave or Die 03
Found the Rave or Die, and its sister label, New Flesh in 2016. Both have amazing releases! I have some Umwelt records which targeted me to this. If you like Clone or Carl Finlow style electro, and acid, then you should give these tracks your mind. He also has a cool limited vinyl release company he works with…wish I knew more about them! Both tracks are great, but Guts of the City b-side resonates hard! The beat box is simple and pure electro funk. The track is very dark acid, just how I like it!
Perc & Passarella Death Squad – Temperature’s Rising
Great dancefloor haunting track. Great simple vocal sample! Would work any dance floor in the middle of the night. Go pagan or go home!
Radere – I Can’t Sleep, I Can’t Wake Up
Colorado’s own Carl Ritger puts out a lush drone record! Thank you!
Culprit – Initial Beatdown
The sounds of this album are so fresh they can’t be linked to on the internet. You’ll have to contact Denver’s Culprit directly to hear this amazing record. A journey…from one side to the other…literally. Follow the leader.
//not hiphop//not bass//not glitch//not mental//
Top Record Of The Year
Luigi Tozzi – Deep Blue Volume 2
Well, you made it this far and if so I’m impressed, you actually are interested in new music. So I added this bonus, saving the best for last. This is an album I discovered while watching the amazing Perseids meteorite shower. The dark ambient lush skyscapes are perfect for watching star shows, driving, dark places and camping. My favorite album of 2016! From Sweden with Love! Enjoy!
Here’s a fun timelapse video I did of some star gazing…an added bonus while listening to Luigi above. Thanks for reading, let me know in the comments if you have new albums or tunes I should check out!
This summer was great, but different than previous, for picking and rockhounding. My club field trip availability was limited–I led two trips and was able to make only one other. I went to Gem-o-rama in California with a rockhound buddy (see other blog post for that adventure). The remainder of my rockhounding trips this summer revolved around a pocket I uncovered during one of the club field trips I went on. I didn’t get out nearly as many times as I have in previous years; but the times I did get out were all high quality, extremely fun and productive! 2016 I would say it was a very successful season!
NOTE: As always, click on the pictures for a HD version. Trust me, it’s worth it! The videos are all available in HD as well.
On my third club field trip of the year I hit into a pocket that consumed 5 days of hard and thrilling work in the following month. It was the biggest crystal pocket I’ve ever found and had some really interesting and amazing crystals. It took me until the very last day of digging to think of the proper name for this pocket…over the month I continually thought about the pocket and realized I had a crush on it…and most of the crystals were damaged due to ancient violence, so I figured the name “Crush” described the experience perfectly!
Here is a _very_ rough drawing of the pocket. Note I have little artistic skills, lol! You can see where I entered in the upper right. The crystal pocket measured about 4 meters long, 0.6 meter diameter and the bottom was 1.5 meters underground.
It all started with a test hole about a meter from the pocket. From others’ experience in this area I knew that crystal pockets tended to be rather deep, so all my test holes need to go at least 1/2 meter deep. When the hole was about a meter diameter, I started to see a shift in color of the soil to a darker brown so I followed it–it was a subtle sign, but something “different” is often what leads you on the crystal trail! Not too much further I started to get into small chips of quartz which quickly turned into a layer of small quartz chips. These chips had no faces or flat sides. Breaking through that layer I entered a zone of darker material and started finding crystal faces. I was in the top of the pocket!
The first crystal plate/cluster I pulled out of the top of the pocket. I’d say that is a good sign of things to come!
This whole top and side of the pocket (along most of its length, except the ends) was softer clevlandite/feldspar material with large chunks of quartz buried here and there within; these quartz plates had beautiful secondary growth clear quartz all over one side, but in this layer nothing was fully euhedral. This layer of the pocket was about 10-25 centimeters thick and produced some nice plates of parallel growth clear quartz.
I continued to follow this trend horizontally (to bottom and right in the above diagram) until I reached the end of the pocket material — I was back into normal top soil-dirt and gravel underneath. That is when I started to excavate straight down. It was just a few minutes and then I hit extremely red pocket dirt/mud material which is the tell-tale sign of a crystal pocket! For the rest of the day I continued to pull out more of the same type of secondary growth plates and individual crystals with secondary overgrowth. Some really neat and unique crystals!
This was the largest plate I pulled out on the first day. The flow of the crystals is evident, this is about 30 cm wide. Note that the crystals change direction in the middle of the plate so they are pointing toward each other. I’m sure there is a reason for this, hit me up in the comments if you know why that would be! You’ll want to click on this image for a close up!
This is a really interesting crystal, I love the large terminated crystal surrounded with the smaller parallel growth, and then the different type of cluster growth at the bottom, first small then larger–all of this on the same plate! Also, the crystals at the very top are pointing down and immediately they reverse.
Thanks to Matt who was also on the field trip for taking this shot; I was back filling the hole as I progressed down. I was still only about 1/2 way through the depth of the pocket here. What an awesome day!
I thought I was nearing the end of the pocket at this time, so I buried the hole and packed up for the day knowing I’d come back in a few days, excavate the hole, and finish it off. It turned out not going the way that I planned…
Given the pocket was trending downwards, my plan for the second day was to remove the overburden over the deepest part of the hole and also widen the hole so I could continue picking crystals starting with a large crystal I already partially uncovered. Its good to have a plan, but its also good to be flexible! As I was mucking, I noticed that there was more of the pocket heading the other way (i.e. in the direction of the picture taker in the above shot). I ended up focusing on that direction for the entire day as the pocket continued, and got better (!!), in the opposite direction than I originally planned!
The pocket continued as described with the crystal plates at the top and side; but as I progressed I noticed that the floor of the pocket had a layer of larger more well formed crystals and finally microcline at the bottom before it ended up gravel. So I was now seeing the entire dimension of the pocket, about 2/3 meter tall and 1/2 meter wide.
An hour or so later, in the center of the pocket, the red mud/clay turned to purple in a couple of spots; that is when I started to find some small fluorite crystals. These fluorites were a truncated octahedron shape, kinda like a soccer ball. They started out really small (~1 cm) in single crystals but then out came out in small plates. A 1/4 meter further, along the side wall of the pocket, the fluorites started to get rather large, up to 8 cm. At the same time the bottom of the pocket had a couple of large quartz crystals.
This is one of the larger fluorite crystals I pulled out, definitely the largest on the second day. Note that the square sides do not have any coatings; but the other sides have a purple coating. Really interesting!
This is an example of a truncated octahedron. The fluorite crystals I found were very close to this, however only a few of the smaller ones were completely euhedral. The larger ones were about 1/2 of what is shown here.
This is the large quartz that was sitting on the bottom of the pocket. Three of the sides were covered in the secondary growth terminating with larger crystals at the top. It had a small cluster of fluorite on the right side, which was the direction where I was pulling out the fluorite mini-soccer balls. This was the largest crystal that came out of the pocket although it wasn’t euhedral!
The pocket didn’t show any signs of stopping, and all of a sudden it was dark. The nearly full moon was illuminating the ground through the trees. I was exhausted but needed to fill in the hole. So I started that tedious process and a little while later realized I was surrounded by coyotes…they must have killed something because they were screeching and barking in all directions! The whole experience made me think Edgar Allen Poe…the evening ended with the soundtrack of me filling in a large hole by the moonlight…what is going on in them woods after dark?
So as many of you that pick crystals know; when your into the crystals and have to leave a pocket, you continuously think about the pocket while waiting for your next trip! I’m no different and since I knew it was going to be a week before I could head back up, I couldn’t help but go through the fantasy scenarios and put together a plan of attack for that next trip. My plan was to excavate the far end of the pocket I was in day 1, taking out the overburden, widening the hole and pulling out the large crystal that was “stuck” and generally seeing how long that side of the pocket continued. Then, if I extinguished that side of the pocket, I would dig a new hole on the left side (again see diagram above) and meet up with where I left off after day 2. This would be less work by minimizing the mucking and centering the next portal along a new section of the pocket!
I had my plan and was able to take a day off of work a little over a week later. I decided I’d head up after work and set up camp, do the mucking of the hole and then go to sleep; waking up at the crack of dawn and start plucking crystals on my day off. Ended up getting a later start then I planned and it was dark by the time I arrived. I lit the lantern, set up camp, and then started the mucking which took a while. Of course, my plan was flawed because there is no way I can expose a crystal and not try to remove it! So I ended up working on the pocket until 2 am when my headlamp batteries started to dim! I then watched a meteorite shower and hit the sack.
The next morning I went down and continued with that side of the pocket until it pinched out. I was able to remove several large crystals (seen in the video) and behind these crystals the pocket pinched out. I hit nothing for the next 1/2 meter so I felt I reached that end of the pocket. After taking a break I started with phase two of my plan. I hit the end of my day 2 digs a couple of hours later and was back into the crystals. Once back into the pocket I was able to pull out a large chunk of fluorite along the side of the pocket (top side in the diagram). The fluorite came out in many pieces (totaling ~30 cm long, 5 cm tall and 5 cm wide). This was exciting because the fluorites were continuing to getting bigger the more I went in this direction! However, that was the last fluorite I found in the pocket. This large chunk was EXTREMELY brittle and broken up and much of it ended up disintegrating when I tried to rinse it off with water.
This was part of the large chunk of fluorite–the part that didn’t fully disintegrate when I was washing off the pocket mud!
These were some of the large crystals I pulled out right before the pocket pinched out on the right side. The crystal in the center is about 18 cm in diameter, has a lot of healed terminations, and fits perfectly with the other crystal that was found nearby in the pocket (see video)! These crystals do have damage–as most crystals did in this pocket (hence the pocket’s name)–but still was a thrill to find!
The hole after day 3, again back filling (on the right) to minimize the mucking efforts.
As you can see in the picture, it was awkward and difficult to go to the bottom of the pocket with that overburden there, so on day 4 I removed it. I then spent the remainder of that day taking out the bottom of the pocket and following it further. This section of the pocket started to change from the consistent topography I was getting used to. The top of the pocket had less of the softer clevlandite/feldspar than before and was more interlocked quartz and pegmatite. The number of crystals on the top was significantly less than before; the ones that I found were more euhedral and still coated with secondary growth. This side seemed to be where the most violence had occurred because there was a lot of damage to most of the crystals. The clay was also harder and pulling the crystals out without damaging them further made progress considerably slower. There was no more fluorite found on this side of the pocket.
After day #4, I added the wooden dam so I didn’t have to worry about the other side of the hole continuously filling in while I was mucking and working the pocket. I had started filling the hole before I took this picture, the bottom is another 1/3 meter buried.
The fifth day ended up being the final day. I was able to pull out a couple more really nice crystals as the pocket started to dive under a pegmatite rhine. The crystals below this point were no longer coated with secondary growth and all were intergrown and not fully euhedral. Many were still large. Once the pocket started to dive downward, the sides of the pocket were difficult digging and the crystals weren’t the quality to pursue further. The pocket had finally pinched out! I decided to throw in the towel and celebrate the amazing crystal pocket I had unearthed!
Here are the last crystals I pulled out before it got too uncomfortable to dig and the quality wasn’t worth pursuing any longer. The end of an amazing pocket!
Cleaning these crystals has been a chore. They had many phases of growth, first the smoky quartz, then a layer of albite, then a layer of iron oxide, then a layer of clear secondary growth quartz, then another layer of iron oxide and clay. Cleaning these requires a chemical bath and then mechanical cleaning, repeating over and over due to the tremendous amounts of facets that each crystal has. Because there is a layer of iron oxide under the clear quartz, the crystals are somewhat “spotted” with red and white that can’t be removed from under the clear quartz. In some instances they beg to be cleaned more, but then you realize that the staining is all under the clear quartz.
The amount of facets are amazing and each piece, regardless of how little or large–they are all unique! I will probably leave some pieces uncleaned as they will look better that way; while others I’ll spend the winter cleaning. It takes about 2-3 weeks per batch of crystals to get them clean enough for my liking (several iterations of chemical then mechanical cleaning), so it is a slow and labor intensive process. But a day playing with crystals is better than a day at work, that’s for sure! This will add some fun throughout the entire winter!
Here is a gallery of some of the crystals and plates that I found.
These were some of the large crystals I pulled out right before the pocket pinched out.
As always, click on any image for a much larger HD version, and note all the video is HD so adjust your settings. The crystals of Gem-O-Rama 2016 are in this separate blog post.
My prospecting buddy Kirk suggested we road trip to Gem-O-Rama this year for its 75th anniversary. I have always wanted to make that event, but for the last several years have not wanted to hassle with coordinating a trip. Having someone to go with was a game-changer for me, and I was able to take off of work and home life to make this happen.
We decided that camping would be fun and definitely the cheapest route, so we packed up our stuff knowing the days would be warm in the desert and nights would likely be cold. We also packed up appropriate prospecting equipment.
Here is the first leg of the trip. California or Bust !!!
We started off the trip with Colorado’s first snow. As luck would have it, the snow was most intense when we planned to leave, and the drive was a bit dicey until the sun came up! Our goal was to make it to Valley of the Gods in SW Utah (the actual destination was kept secret…little did I know that Kirk had spent quite a bit of time in the SW and had some amazing routes for us on the road trip!)
Roads were very slick west of Denver all the way through South Park. Kenosha Pass was re-opened as we were embarking…we saw why!
After leaving South Park the roads cleared up and we had a pleasant drive. Kirk had made the longest playlist of cool tunes I think I’ve ever heard; I don’t know if it ever repeated. We discovered we have many similar interests in synth-based music and I met my match when it comes to 80’s band trivia!
One has to be careful when traveling this area of the country–we narrowly escaped this attack!
The aspen were almost done and the oaks were starting to turn.
Valley of the Gods
I love this part of our country! I had not been to Valley of the Gods, likely because I don’t frequent German travel websites (this must be a popular place for Germans to tour the US because we met a lot of German tourists in this area). The beauty of the SW Utah desert is world famous!
Two episodes of the BBS program Dr. Who were filmed in Valley of the Gods. You never know when Daleks would be around the bend…
It was getting late in the afternoon and I figured we must be staying in this general area. Kirk told me to find Moki Dugway on the map, I said whaaat? But eventually I found it on the map as we traversed Moki Dugway, a hidden road along a cliff wall onto the top of the mesa. Moki Dugway led to a mesa that jets out over the San Juan River and overlooks Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley. It is one heck of a gorgeous place to camp, that’s for sure!
This is the view from our campsite at the end of the road that Moki Dugway dropped us on. This is looking east back towards Colorado over Valley of the Gods.
The sunset was beautifully colored as there was a fire burning west of us. It was obvious were were under a major flight corridor as we saw planes throughout the evening and night!
Our view of Monument Valley to the South, with the smoke plume from the forest fire to our west.
The camp on the top of a cliff! It got quite chilly up there that evening!
Monument Valley, with the start of the smoke plume from the forest fire to our west, from Moki Dugway.
The sky was clear and the stars were awesome. We saw several shooting stars but no satellites, which we both thought was pretty strange given how clear and dark the night’s sky was!
I did catch a Moki Dugway shooting star (and airplane)!
Kirk enjoying breakfast on Friday morning!
Looks like we camped at Eva’s Point, so said the sign affixed to this old tree. I wonder who Eva was and how many times she posted her favorite spots in the desert southwest?
Day #2’s Leg
We woke up, got a bite to eat and then headed out. We stopped at Goosenecks State Park which Kirk stated the last time he was there it was not a State Park. We parked and took in the amazing bends of the San Juan River.
After that we went through Monument Valley and continued through Page, AZ where the Glen Canyon Dam for Lake Powell was located.
Page Arizona power plant
Zion National Park
Zion is an amazing place, and the word is out. In 2015 it was the 6th most visited National Park. We were a little behind in our itinerary so we didn’t have much time to stop but the views and geology as we drove through were awesome!
We continued through the barren landscapes and went through Las Vegas on Friday afternoon at sunset, which is rush hour. Note to self, take the newly built bypass on the north side on the way home! South of Vegas heading toward Los Angeles we witnessed a solid line of cars heading the other way into the City of Sin! Not being a huge fan of Las Vegas, I’d have to admin this was my second best trip there; we went straight through without stopping! (the best was on the way home when we took the bypass loop and didn’t go through it at all, lol)!
This was our view from camp at Trona Pinnacles.
Our destination was Trona Pinnacles in the Searles Valley, where we’d camp for two nights while we were picking crystals at Gem-O-Rama during the day. We got to Trona Pinnacles after dark and the moon was setting as we found a place to camp. Trona’s landscape consists of around 500 tufa (calcium carbinate) spires making it look like an alien landscape. Actually, it was just that in the movie Star Trek V: The Final Frontier among many other hollywood blockbusters!
These tufa features were created long ago (10 to 100 thousand years ago) when calcium carbonate groundwater seeped into the bottom of large inland lakes that were present at that time. The calcium rich groundwater and the alkaline lake water created these deposits, the lakes drained, and we’re left with the Trona Pinnacles.
Looking east from camp at some of the pinnacles at the crack of dawn.
Looking at camp from the base of the pinnacles near us.
On the top of the pinnacles during pre-dawn looking north towards Trona and the Searles Valley Mineral plants.
Camp from the top of the pinnacles.
Campers on the other side of the pinnacles from us.
Here is a cool time lapse I did from the front door of the tent looking west. This was a 4+ hour capture using my 14mm f2.8 lens with 330+ open exposure shots.
The 75th Annual Gem-O-Rama 2016
Wow, what an amazing event. I have detailed this event is a separate blog post. I will say that the crystal digging was very simple and easy, and the Searles Lake Gem & Mineral Society put on one heck of an extravaganza! It’s nice for a change being able to drive right to the spot and pick crystals with minimal effort! It was extremely well organized and very family friendly. Here is the flyer for 2017, you should think about going!
One of the Brine Lakes mined by the Searles Valley Mineral Plant.
The return trip home
We finished with the halite collecting field trip on Sunday around noon and headed home. On the way we visited the ghost town of Rhyolite as we traversed through the 99 degree Death Valley (remember we started our trip at 29 degrees). We stayed in Mesquite in a stinky motel and progressed through central Utah meeting up with I-70 which from there was a straight shot home.
Gold was discovered in 1904 in the hills around Rhyolite, and in 1905 the town was formally established and platted. As many of the gold rush towns of western America, the town was in a boom mode and growth was swift. Just several years into the boom of the town, however, several economic events including the San Francisco earthquake squelched the investment in Rhyolite’s mines. By 1908 Rhyolite’s population was peaking at around 8,000, but the mines were beginning to fail due to lack of investment or lack of production. By 1910, residents moved as more and more financial hardship hit the town. By 1919, the Post Office was closed.
What amazes me if that in 15 years the town went from nothing, to nearly 10,000 residents, back to nothing. Much of the infrastructure of the town was moved to the nearby town of Beatty, so at least resources were re-purposed. Today Rhyolite is a interesting town of ruins, with the train depot currently being restored.
Tom Kelly built his bottle house in 1906 and then raffled it off. Note that the bottles do not show inside the house; the only light is from the traditional windows.
Recycling bottles did exist!
One of the iron doors of the jail house built in 1907.
The Porter Brothers’ store was erected in 1906. They sold everything from food to automobiles!
Cook Bank. Built in 1908 for $90,000. It was the tallest building in town, 3 stories plus basement. The vaults were in the center and the 2nd and 3rd floors were business offices.
This building was state of the art having steam heating, electric lights and marble floors.
Porter Brothers’ building, with dust trail from approaching vehicle!
The Las Vegas & Tonopah Depot, erected in 1909.
Sign advertising Rhyolite station, with “Rhyolite Ghost Casino” painted on top.
Looking into the front of the Jail
The irony here is terribly funny. This is “The Dream” resort in Beatty, NV. They must have run out of funding after they got the sign up, because the sign is all that exists of this resort.
Sunset on Sunday night in the middle of nowhere!
Sunrise in Mesquite
Some of the landscape as we progressed through Utah.
So a rockhounding buddy called me and suggested we road trip to Gem-o-rama this year. I purchased a halite plate at a rock show years ago and while researching where it came from I came upon Gem-o-rama and chalked it up as something to do in the future; but given its a road trip to California from Colorado I never got serious about planning a trip.
Having a friend to go with and a road trip adventure offer; this was a game changer and got me engaged in the concept! I checked with work and home and everything worked out, so I took Kirk up on his offer and joined him on this adventure! I am so glad I did!
The road trip part of the trip was spectacular; I’m put that in a different blog post with tons of pictures, so make sure and check it out too.
Here is an example of the brine lake that the Searles Valley is known for. This one had all dried up
This year was the 75th annual Gem-o-rama event; yes it has been happening for 75 years! It is hosted each year by the Searles Lake Gem & Mineral Society and their experience is definitely noteworthy. The whole gem show and field trips are very professional and extremely organized, especially when you see how many folks the event can accommodate!
The events are very family friendly! There were tons of kids of all ages including many boy scout troops. I loved hearing the kids all having a fantastic time, joyous when they found jewels, and angry when their sibling stole their jewels! This event appears it is a favorite for the SoCal crystal hunting crowds due to the proximity of the Los Angeles area. We only met another from Colorado there; and he currently was residing in California, so it is a day-trip type of deal for many families.
The event is broken up into four field trips. The first trip is Friday afternoon and is a dealer collecting trip for halite plates. Because of the elongated drought, many of the lakes are not good for finding the halite crystals and plates; but the Searles Valley Minerals plant have created and nurtured a spot that is perfect for crystals; and from what we heard this year’s halites from this field trip were the best ever recovered. This excursion is intended for mineral dealers and is quite expensive (although a bargain if you are collecting for resale). This trip is on the 2017 flyer, but details like price has not yet been disclosed.
The crystals here are formed as the water accumulated during the wet season (winter) evaporates during the dry summer heat. As the water evaporates the brine solution becomes more concentrated with minerals. The first and most abundant mineral to precipitate is halite. Borax, hanksite and even the rarer sulfohalites are formed. The crystals form under the surface of the dry lake beds, so they need to be extracted by various physical means which creates collecting opportunities for the Saturday’s field trips.
Searles Valley brine lake
These cannons shoot randomly to deter the birds from landing. They also have recordings (quite vivid and scary) of birds in pain playing to deter fowl from landing and facing death in the brine lakes.
As the water evaporates the level of the lakes retreat.
Brine crystal. Tapping it makes the coolest “tink” sound!
The first field trip for rockhounds is on Saturday morning. It is the Mud trip (lots of details in this link). Folks with the Gem & Mineral Society and Searles Valley Minerals have extracted mud that is full of hanksite crystals and spread this mud over a dry lake bed for the collectors to collect in. These piles are at most a foot deep. There are plenty of crystals all buried in black smelly mud that will get all over your clothes, so take overalls and/or boots or clothes that are throw-away.
These are the piles of mud that host a ton of large hanksite crystals
Since the minerals of this area are water soluble, it is important to rinse them with the ultra concentrated brine pulled up from the depths of the lake. At this field trip they have troughs of brine available, a truck with brine (if you bring your own containers) and there is also brine for sale (while supplies last) at the general store back in Trona.
Kirk and I found an open spot in one of the mud piles and started digging. Right away Kirk found some really nice clusters and I was pulling out some smaller (but still nice sized) single hanksites. Before I knew it I had a 5 gallon bucket full of rocks; and there was still plenty of real-estate to go through, so I realized I needed to be more selective–a common problem I have when digging crystals.
About half way through the field trip I came across a large sized crystal. Kirk stated that I had a Cheshire Cat grin on my face as I slowly pulled out this hanksite crystal from the mud. The sticky mud made a sucking “sluuuuuurp” sound as it became detached from the sea of mud. I was in awe as this crystal was huge and very well formed. Kirk stated it looked like a football, so it was dubbed “The Football”! I would have taken pictures, but I was covered in the black sticky mud and I didn’t want to touch anything that I didn’t want to be a mess, so the only picture of the dig is what I took on the car ride in, above.
We spent too much time digging through the mud and didn’t leave enough time to fully scrub down the crystals in the brine troughs, so we left the somewhat muddy crystals in a bucket. While waiting for the next field trip in the parking lot of the Gem & Mineral show, we bought some brine and scrubbed them down before the mud was completely dry. The remainder of the cleaning for me occurred at home. I used a scrub brush, dental pick and spot gun to clean the crystals.
Some hanksite crystals were truncated and elongated “barrel” shaped in singles, and the clusters were all complex and each one unique! I saw many very large crystals and clusters being cleaned up after this dig!
Very large single hanksite crystal. I’m showing its translucence in the Colorado sun, and also the top complex faces of the crystal.
This is the “barrel” form of hanksite, which is in the Hexagonal crystal system. Note both ends of this double terminated crystal are flat.
Double terminated (pointed on both ends) hanksite crystal. Notice the etchings, I washed this one off with water as an experiment and in the few seconds it came in contact, you can see the etching.
Double terminated hanksite with both pointed end and flat end
Hanksite cluster from the mud dig
The next field trip was Saturday afternoon and it was the Blow Hole Trip. As you will read in this link, they drill holes about 30-40 feet down in the lake bed and then push some explosives down and detonate to loosen a bunch of crystals. Then they push out the crystals with high pressure air pumped down into the hole which pushes the liquids and crystals out onto the surface for collectors to rummage through.
Collecting here is EXTREMELY easy; the crystals are all just laying all over the ground (see video below) in proximity to the drilled holes. The eight or so holes are extracted before the field trip begins so folks can start collecting as they arrive. They do put on a demo and extract crystals with their specialized drilling truck and everyone can grab “fresh” crystals as well. The video shows this field trip.
The crystals we found on Saturday were awesome. The hanksite wasn’t as big on the Blow Hole trip as it was the Mud Trip, and didn’t come in as large of plates. The hanksite had several crystal shapes which you can see below. Most were double terminated and had either a point, a flat bottom, or both point and flat terminations on the ends.
We found borax and some halite crystals and plates. I had read the sulfohalite octahedral crystals were rare, so once I got my eyes adjusted to them I was able to find some of these as well.
sulfohalite crystal cluster, this in normally in an octohedral form, this is about as big as they get I was told
Borax with sulfohalite crystals
The stash from day 1. Note that I had found a bunch more but left them behind. The crystals on these field trips are abundant! On the left is the heavily concentrated brine (from the depths) we purchased to clean the crystals; if you use water they will etch–and if you even use salt water they will etch.
Kirk had read that these crystals will fluoresce in UV light, so when I got them home and cleaned up I checked that out. I’m using a cheapo UV LED light I bought off of ebay, and they lit up bright lime green! These pictures I took were in the total darkness except that UV light, with an four second open exposure to capture the fluorescence.
Note the sulfohalites on the bottom center just left of the big crystal. These were even more fluorescent!
The Football under UV light.
On Sunday morning the last field trip took us to the lake beds to find halite plates which the area is world renowned for. These are a bit of work and require some picks and/or heavy wrecking bars to bust through the dense surface to find the crystals on the underside. Under the surface growing from the top were halite plates and berkeite plates. See video for the berkeites extraction.
Example of heavily dug area (foreground) where halite plates were extracted. They were forming along a canal where shelves of salt precipitate formed
The pink/red color in the halites are from halobacteria which produces a red carotenoid pigment. The deeper red color is highly desired.
Beautiful halite cluster from field trip #3.
Beautiful pink halite plate
Modified Halite plate
Berkeite plate. I really got into these as they were deep red and just simply funky…
Kirk and the monster halite plate (too big to bring home)
We finally have Multicast’s 2016 album Multicaster available for sale at our bandcamp site.
There is a limited number of hand stenciled Iron Feather Journal #21 magazines available with our CD. Don’t delay on this as this is a one-time run and no other magazines will be produced once these are gone.
Here are the videos associated with the new album (some soundtracks to my adventures, some music videos):
We got a great review of or first full length album, Rural Sessions, in an Italian webzine specializing in electronic music, Electronique.It. The timing was great as we are doing the final work in preparation for our new album to be released very soon! Special thanks to Ivo D’Antoni for the wonderful and kind words! I still listen to this album, a lot, and enjoy it after all these years. It was a fruitful time for Multicast and for electronic music in general. That said, our new album is likely my favorite so far…hard to judge, we’ll stand them up side-by-side in another 15 years and see what’s what!
We released 3 different versions of Rural Sessions. The limited run of 500 marbled vinyl as seen above, then 1000 150g 2LPs and finally 500 CDs. The CD has the extended version of Laura where the LP has a reprise version. The reprise LP version was played on the late John Peel’s Radio One radio show.