Devils Head Picking Field Trip

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.

Following Float

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".

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.

Float Quartz

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 quartz

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

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

You can see the white overgrowth on the otherwise gemmy smoky quartz

Devils Head Amazonite

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.

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Soaked in a chemical bath for a week.  Still some staining, but looking nicer!

Soaked in a chemical bath for a week. Still some staining, but looking nicer!

Twin Smokies

Twin Smoky Quartz with lots of iron staining…needs a bath!  Looks like it could be gemmy!

Nice etched polka dot patterns!

Nice etched polka dot patterns on the point!

Smoky Quartz

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

Love the little gemmy crystal on the termination

2015 Summer Road Trip – Northern Leg

The second day we left after exploring Keystone and Sturgis South Dakota on our way to Buffalo to spend the night.  Along the way was also Devil’s Tower.  I’ve always wanted to visit Devil’s Tower and was expecting it to be huge.  It wasn’t as big as I thought it would be (I guess the mashed potatoes were to-scale…LOL), but it was very impressive.

Devils Tower

Devils Tower as seen from the NE coming the back way from Aladdin

Devils Tower

Devils Tower from the South on the trail

Devils Tower from the west

Devils Tower from the west

Devils Tower

Devils Tower from the road entering the natural monument

The next day we headed up to Crow Agency Montana to see the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.  Erin really wanted to see this and I’m glad we went. The kids enjoyed the Battlefield and the stories of the volunteers there, it was finally cool to know the story when you can visualize what occurred.

Erin really wanted to go the Reenactment and it just so happened it was occurring the day we were there (she is great at planning!).  I was afraid it was going to be really cheesy but I actually enjoyed it.  Luckily there was a breeze (to our backs, fortunately) all day which kept my horse allergies at bay.  I especially liked the narrative which was poetic and told as stories and legend!  There were a ton of horses and people too; and the Crow were riding the horses bareback, many got thrown in front of us and they got up and shook it off.  Yikes!

Little Bighorn Reenactment 2015

Little Bighorn Reenactment 2015

Little Bighorn Reenactment 2015

Cool herd of “wild ponies”

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The next leg of the trip was the headliner, Yellowstone.  We entered from the NE corner through Red Lodge Montana.

Road Trip 2015 – Eastern Leg

This summer we did the “Road Trip Vacation” with the kids in our new car.  Now that the kids are old enough to remember we visited many of our national treasures.  We started off by visiting the Oregon Trail Ruts National Historic Landmark in Guernsey, Wyoming.  This is a neat little site that is amazing to see how the metal wheels of the wagons cut down into the sandstone.  Many many families looked for a new life homesteading the “wild west” in the 1800’s.

Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site

Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site

Cool old tree with me and the kids.

Cool old tree with me and the kids.

Oregon Trail Ruts

Oregon Trail Ruts

Cool old tree at Oregan Trail Ruts

Cool old tree at Oregon Trail Ruts

Our destination for the first night was Keystone South Dakota to see both rock art features, Crazy Horse Memorial Monument and Mount Rushmore!

Crazy Horse Memorial Gate

Gate at Crazy Horse Memorial plus Daphne howling at the moon

Crazy Horse Monument

Crazy Horse Monument

Crazy Horse Monument

Crazy Horse Monument

David Humphreys Miller

Henry Little Soldier by David Humphreys Miller

Woody Crumble

Woody Crumble’s Spirit Horse

Down the road from Crazy Horse was Mount Rushmore.  We ended up there after dinner time and it was sprinkling and overcast.  Made for a really neat view with some awesome lightning overhead for a little while!  Saw these very tiny Mountain Goats on the way into the park as a bonus!

Mountain Goat

Mini Mountain Goat baby at Mount Rushmore

Rushmore Mountain Goats

Mount Rushmore Mountain Goats

Rushmore baby mountain goat

Rushmore baby mountain goat

Mini Mountain Goat family at Mount Rushmore

Mini Mountain Goat family at Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore lightning

Mount Rushmore lightning

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Washington's Looking at You

Washington’s Looking at You

Turkey Vultures

Mount Rushmore Turkey Vultures

Mount Rushmore lightning

Mount Rushmore lightning

Keystone South Dakota was a cool little town with a quaint downtown with 2 rock shops. Only one was open, however.  There was an amazing antique / thrift shop with a bunch of unique stuff and a friendly shop keeper, and an interesting sign downtown…

Surgeon Supplies

Surgeon supplies documented on a sign in downtown Keystone, SD

Rock Shop Fence

Awesome fence at the closed rock shop.

The next day we headed to Sturgeon for lunch and then to Devil’s Tower and eventually to Buffalo to stay the night…see the next post for more about the second leg of 4 of our adventure!

Animals of our Road Trip 2015

We had a wonderful road trip this summer going through South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Colorado.  2100 miles over about 9 days.  We were able to see many different animals and babies.  This is a summary of the trip’s animal shots.

Young Black Bear

Young Black Bear

Yellowstone River Salmon Fly

Salmon Fly that all the fish loved on the Yellowstone River

Baby Goat at Mt Rushmore

Baby miniature Mountain Goat at Mt Rushmore

Goat Family

(Miniature) Mountain Goat Family at Mt Rushmore

Baby Goat

Baby Mountain Goat at Mt Rushmore

Baby and Father Goat

Baby Mountain Goat and dad at Mt Rushmore

Baby Goat at Mt Rushmore

Baby Mountain Goat at Mt Rushmore

Goat on Beartooth Pass summit

Mountain Goat on Beartooth Pass summit

Goat on Beartooth Pass summit, it was quite spectacular view

Mountain Goat on Beartooth Pass summit, it was quite spectacular view

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Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear in Yellowstone, check out the claws!

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Pelicans and ducks on Yellowstone River

Pelicans and ducks on Yellowstone River

Baby Deer

After returning, we discovered this baby deer in our driveway.

Elk sleeping

A little afternoon ciesta for this elk. Mammoth Hot Springs visitor center.

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Baby Elk

Cute baby elk and male Brown-Headed Cowbird.


The old raven in Yellowstone, he was huge

Birds at Yellowstone

American Avocet shorebird in the Yellowstone sunset warming up their feet in the thermal pool

Turkey Vultures

Turkey Vultures at Mt Rushmore


Coyote chilling in the grass.

Yellowstone Coyote

Coyote along the drive in Yellowstone

Lamar Valley Bison

Our first bison we saw, in the Lamar Valley heading in from the NE entrance

Bison @ Mammoth Hot Springs

Bison @ Mammoth Hot Springs


Red Feather Lakes Fireworks

We visited my folks on the tail end of our family road trip this year.  We happened to be there over the 4th of July weekend.  Red Feather Lakes had a spectacular display on Friday night.  I have never seen so many people there before, but obviously the reputation of the small community’s fireworks show had spread over the years.

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Booked to DJ the 2015 Full Moon Festival


Been pulling records for this year’s Mother Earth Sound System Full Moon Festival, a 48-hours 2-stage music festival.  It looks like I’ll have an extended set DJ/performing as Multicast (up to 6 hours!!) on the Earth stage Saturday afternoon/evening.  The line-up looks incredible, and the venue is a rural outdoor ranch in the mountains near Silverthorne.  I will bring many styles and change the music up playing dub, reggae, electro, acid, ambient and some 140-dubstep; mainly a more chill out stage providing balance to the main pounding techno Moon stage.

I will also bring some gear and add in some original stuff here and there.  I’m opening up for the Normal Ones so very excited about that; and perhaps we’ll do some experimentation for a while between sets!

Don’t miss it!

Mess Full Moon lineup

Amazing international lineup!

Smoky Quartz and Amazonite Picking

Larger smoky quartz from this small pocket

These were some of the smoky quartz that would fall out of the pocket when I shook the tree roots. Some of the bigger quartz from the pocket

It has been a while since I’ve been up in the hills, but recently I _finally_ had a free day and I was able to hit the hills and prospect for some crystals.  This year has been somewhat slow for me so far, I’ve ventured up to dig for Amazonite and/or Smoky Quartz two times before and I had found just a small crystal or two in those days.  I also was prospecting way away from my normal places too, but you never know until you check it out!

This last outing, however, I went back to a spot I had luck with in years past as I wanted to dig down deeper.  I’ve been told by numerous folks that digging deeper around a seam or small pocket in the pegmatite often yields huge rewards, so I decided this was the day to expend some energy and find out.  I arrived at 6am and it was nice and cool so I started to trench out diagonally from where I had luck before.  I went about 3-4 feet deep working through some very hard rock to find nothing but gravel on the other side of the pegmatite.  I continued elongating the trench and was able to find some peg that was looking okay but it was producing nothing but hard work.  After 5 hours of digging I decided that down was not the source at this point and started to fill in the large hole.

One thing I also wanted to try at this spot was to follow the peg past where it appeared to pinch out when I was onto crystals in years past, so I went about 10-15 feet beyond in the general direction of the seam and started another probe hole.  Immediately I was pulling quartz chunks out but none with euhedral sides; they appeared to be float as they were in the deep organic matter.  I went down about 3 feet and finally started to hit the pegmatite!  It continued and I was happy to see it!  I trenched it for a while perpendicular to the peg and was pulling crystals out in the past, some some graphic peg appeared but nothing at all with facets.  The peg was rather thin at this point and nothing was in the gravel below.  I ended up with my trench into the roots of a tree and since there were no positive signs I decided to give the tree a break and not damage any of the roots.  So I filled in that hole and took a break as that was another 2 hours of hard work!

Double Terminated Smoky Quartz

This was the other quartz crystal in the center of the pocket. Neat double terminated crystal that is completely gemmy inside! Love that root beer smoky color!

Heart of the pocket

Heart of the pocket, double terminated crystal all cleaned up.

While eating lunch and taking a break, I noticed a rock that was on the other side of my tree that appeared to be buried pretty deep.  After eating I tried to pull it out but it wouldn’t give.  Interesting that on its side there appeared to be some quartz chunks so I got out the pick and dug it out.  It definitely had better shape than any of the peg I was in before lunch, so I started to dig around it.  The next rock had some green and I knew I was in the right spot.  In just a little while I was in the start of a seam with some nice smaller partially euhedral quartz and amazonite shards.  The peg was definitely different than the one I dug in previously so I continued uphill.

About a foot further down and up hill the peg opened up a little and in that opening I started to get more green shards of microcline and a larger quartz chunks.  One of the first quartz pieces I found was what looked like a tip of a larger crystal.  I see this all the time and I realized that I likely had a really big crystal in store up hill!  It was nearly at the other side of the seam/pocket, so it had fallen downhill several feet in the seam which was very interesting…Upon hitting a stump of an old burnt out tree I then discovered the small pocket.  Unfortunately my phone died and I didn’t have my regular camera so I can’t share any pictures of the digs, but as I dug through the large roots crystals started to appear.  The microcline was light amazonite and some crystals fit into the palm of my hand.  Upon shaking the roots crystals would fall into my hole below!  It was a quite fun pocket but it receded as quickly as it opened up.  Still I was able to get some good sized crystals and amazonite including a couple double terminated (one healed) smoky quartz.  I was dead tired by after 5pm (almost 12 hours digging) so I filled in all the holes completely and headed home.  Who knows, there could be more there (maybe dig down like the experts say?), I’ll have to check it out again some other time.

Colorado Amazonite Crystals

Uncleaned, straight from the Earth, some light colored Amazonite crystals


Soaked for a week in a hot oxalic acid bath, the powder blue color is nice–but no where as nice as the green further south.

Large smoky quartz with broken tip

As in nearly EVERY pocket I dig, I find a broken tip. This time, I was digging up hill and found the tip first. I knew that was a great sign and that I’d find its adjoining large crystal which made an exciting dig!

Smoky Quartz Cluster

Smoky quartz cluster that came out of the center of the pocket. Uncleaned.

Cleaned up cluster

Cleaned up smoky quartz cluster