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Today was a great day and my second outing for the year, this time to the New Hope Amethyst lode claim as guests of the Canyon City rock club. I was with the Lake George Gem and Mineral club , there were 5 or 6 clubs on this field trip. Lots of eager Rockhounds wanting to get out find some amethyst quartz crystals!! The day was slightly overcast which was perfect for a day of digging–bright but not too hot or sunny.
I started the day doing some prospecting and walking around the claim and surrounding public lands. I found some epidote in quartz/granite which was cool; but nothing else per se. Richard, the field trip leader for the club, had given me a clue on where to find some calcite crystals so I went on a hunt for them. I was able to find the area he mentioned; but obviously someone had been digging there already and I didn’t see the calcite crystals he mentioned. The seam that had been dug out had some dried red clay and I figured I should see what that was about so I started digging in that carefully. I ended up finding a small plate of small calcite points which was exciting. Unfortunately the host rock was extremely brittle and even exercising great care it was hard to extract the plates without everything busting into tiny pieces.
Cute calcite cluster found in the maroon clay
I continued to dig into the clay and uncovered more small plates of calcite crystals, again they were very brittle but I was able to extract a couple 1.5 – 2″ pieces intact which was exciting! Continuing into the pocket I the clay turned iridescent maroon colored and that is where I found a couple of really pretty plates, one, the back/side of the pocket was able to be extracted intact that was rather large, 4-5″ long. Sweet! The below cluster was one of the intact small clusters which came from this area of the small pocket.
Calcite cluster without the coating of calcite
Awesome large cluster of calcite crystals intact!!
Once I got to the end of this small pocket I broke into a small but pretty smokey and amethyst quartz vein. It quickly pinched out and I decided to see what everyone else was finding and relax for a little bit. Overall the calcite pocket was about 3-5″ high, 1-3″ wide and about 4″ deep at the largest points.
"Zipper" Vein of Smokey and Amethyst Quartz at the end of the Calcite pocket
Everyone was having luck about two feet deep digging an amethyst vein. There was a lot of folks digging in a tight space so I decided to try and intercept the vein a little ways away from the crowd; 10 yards or so uphill. I dug and dug in all directions but did not find the vein…it either made a significant turn, went further down than I was wanting to dig (which was 3+ feet!); or pinched out. After a couple of hours I reclaimed my prospecting and just hung out and listened to everyone talk and enjoyed the stories and watching everyone find great little clusters.
Small amethyst, milky and smokey quartz clusters and points
I went through some of the tailings and found some cool little points, and after everyone was done they offered me a chance to dig in the excavated hole and I enjoyed about an hour of finding great small milky quartz covered plates before it was time to head home. It was a wonderful day with great people; I’ve really enjoyed visiting this claim and appreciate the opportunity to do so!
Needs a little more scrubbing; beautiful amethyst and smokey quartz!
Calcite crystals in close proximity to quartz vein
Posted May 12th, 2013. 3 comments
This year was a great year for topaz; my family and I had a couple of wonderful days with the Dorris family at the Topaz Mountain Gem mine. See previous posts (1, 2) for details on these trips. On May 5th I found a really nice (300 carat!) beautiful blue specimen topaz that Joe suggested I have his son professionally clean and seal some of the fractures using pressure treatment. I went ahead and took advantage of this and the crystal came back just beautiful. I’m not sure how many fractures were actually sealed as it is still fractured up; but the color is wonderful and crystal clean (probably where the term is derived?)!
I am very happy with the results, well worth the investment!
I am also very pleased with the cut topaz that came back from Joe’s cutter in China. These take a while to process, but well worth the wait. This year was about 4 months quicker than last year as well; so I was pleasantly surprised to see these just after the new year!
I found a really nice sherry stone and had it cut. Joe thought that for sure one nice stone could be cut; but potentially 2. Was surprised to see three stones were cut from this! Here is the original stone:
And here are the cut stones it produced:
The right stone was the surprise; it had some inclusions which are really beautiful. The left gem was from another clear stone I found in July; these will make a nice pair on some piece !!
And another smaller stone was cut from the large stone. Here are a couple of other stones I received, a total of 30 carats for 2012!
My daughter is in love with these stones and is now re-energized to spend the day digging for stones soon! Hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to go back several times again in 2013! And I hope I finally dig an elusive stone at Devils head this upcoming year!
Posted January 17th, 2013. 3 comments
My dad and I are both new members with the Lake George Gem and Mineral club and were able to go on this great trip. The New Hope Amethyst location was claimed by the Canyon City Geology club and on BLM land, but you had to pass through multiple private parcels of land to get to it. As with any claim, you MUST have permission from the claim owner to collect; even though its on public land. The Canyon City club arranged with the owners to let us pass through their land and we headed out to the claim. There were a lot of horses on the first property that were running around curious of what the procession was all about!
Once we got to the site my dad and I went straight to the old mine area and started working on a slightly exposed vein. There was a lot of hard-rock work; pounding and using chisels and pry bars for this trip. I was very sore the next day!
The Canyon City club members there were awesome and taught us much about how to expend effort wisely using the hard-rock mining techniques. This was great information and something as a novice rockhound you can only really get going on these club field trips with the experts! Thanks! We ended up working with several folks to expose a nice vein. The vein of crystals were pretty brittle and would break apart along terminations easily if the vein was not excavated correctly. We ended up with a couple of pieces with the vein intact, but mostly just smaller crystals. All the terminations were coated with a white milky quartz. The crystals all had smokey quartz with the amethyst; so they were absolutely beautiful multi-colored purple/black with white veins! These are not like the amethyst you see in rock shows or shops, but they are unique and beautiful!
Extra thanks to both the Lake George and Canyon City clubs for this awesome day! It was great pulling purple crystals out of the ground!!! My favorite part is many of these crystals are in the shape of tornadoes; I know–pretty geeky–but makes the day extra special!
You can see the Smoky, Amethyst and Milky quartz in this fine crystal!
These veins were hard to get out whole! Beautiful smokey, amethyst and milky quartz!
This was the largest crystal of the day! Notice the quartz layer on the terminations
We had a great time and found some beautiful crystals!
Posted September 1st, 2012. Add a comment
Only been a couple of times thus far this summer; hope to make it up a few more times. I went back to the spot from July 13th as something told me I missed something; and missed something I did. I ended up finding a very light smokey that I thought was topaz at the top of the seam; but further downhill there was more to be uncovered! All crystals were very black (morion) and attached to nothing just sitting in the dirt. There were two seams; one right underground and another about a foot or 18 inches deep. The crystals and parts were pretty etched but it was a nice seam…found two small topaz as well! I dug that area up and I’m pretty confident that I got everything…learned a lot with this area about how to prospect and dig as I missed the main seams on the first day.
I love the multi-color capped Microcline crystal!
I'm pretty sure this is Topaz; not a crystal per-se; I've never seen this before!
Finally, everything found on the second day at this location near Topaz Point Picnic Area…which by the way has a terrific view of the Pikes Peak Batholith area!
Found some wonderful crystals today! Morion Smokey Quartz, multi-colored capped Microcline, and Topaz!
Posted July 29th, 2012. 3 comments
It is always a treat to visit one of Joe Dorris’ mines; this day I took the kids and I up to the Smoky Hawk Mine as part of a Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society field trip. My daughter had watched the New Crystal Hunters video of this mine and wanted to see it in person!
Joe had some safety fences to put up before we could see the pegmatite vein he had dug up with the excavator, so the kids and I hit the tailings piles. We found a bunch of great smoky and amazonite crystals!!!
Hunter and Daphne found these crystals in the tailings piles
Amazonite crystals from the tailings piles
Once we were able to enter the pit, Joe showed us a pocket that he found. He was pulling beautiful small plates and white-capped Amazonite crystals out of this. Daphne and I worked that for a while and then gave it up to another rockhound so he could experience working in a world-class pocket! Daphne and I worked along a perpendicular vein that showed amazonite but very little crystalization. We did find this tiny fluorite with amazonite and I was able to get this whittled down for Daphne!
Daphne's fluorite and amazonite micro-crystal
Meanwhile Sharon (the club’s editor) dug into a lower pocket (maybe 5 feet underground) along the pegmatite vein that produce a LOT of really nice smoky/microcline plates! She worked this pocket all day long and it produced some incredible plates!
Sharon's pocket of Microcline/Smoky plates
All this time the pocket Joe found was producing material, and it started to open up. But, Yam also broke into some red clay and found yet another Amazonite/Smoky Quartz pocket. I helped go through the pocket looking for excess crystals; there were a lot that came out of this pocket.
Crystals waiting to be plucked out of the ground
Crystals we were pulling out of this pocket: notice the shovel handle for reference.
Nice amazonite plate from the pocket - 8-10 inches long
Given that this was a combo pocket, Joe gets to keep it; but I did get a nice consolation parting gift for working on this pocket with Yam and Dave; a nice small (lighter colored) amazonite plate! Awesome! This has cleaned up nicely.
I was able to keep this awesome (but dirty) amazonite plate out of our pocket
We had a wonderful day (as always) at Joe’s mine, and some great stones and crystals as souvenirs. Joe gave us each choice of a really nice crystal as we parted; I chose this white-capped Amazonite that he found earlier in the day. Also, more from what we found in the tailings piles!
White cap amazonite crystal gift from the mine
Hunter's nice combo he found first thing
Smoky Hawk Tailings: One man's trash is another man's treasure
Headed up to Devil’s head today. Decided to dig around the Topaz Point picnic area as I have not yet dug around there. I went about 30 yards from the car and saw a cool mushroom on a tree stump; after looking at that I noticed the graphic pegmatite laying on the ground so I started digging. Immediately I started seeing some shapes on the pegmatite so I was pretty excited. Here are some of the examples of what I was digging up…
Shaped pegmatite I was digging up immediately after starting...
More shaped peg...
I was getting pretty excited for what I may find...
I ended up finding a couple of small smoky quartz and a couple of nicer ones; but the pegmatite was no longer graphic and produced no more shapes or crystals after searching about 10 feet in diameter around. So I picked up and took a walk…
I came across some good looking pegmatite on the surface so I started to dig. Immediately I found a couple of pieces of white quartz with one side faceted and then I found a nice pink microcline crystal. I started to dig up hill and ended up finding a long-gone seam…just quartz and microcline in the dirt (to start with); all less than 1 foot deep. I played here for a while until I had to leave.
Cool clearish smokey...should be a cutter...!
Found this one less than an inch below the surface...
I liked this microcline because of the way the crystals formed together. The bottom crystal in deeper on the right side because of the crystal on top of it. Found several other pieces of microcline too; include a full nice sized crystal.
Stacked microcline crystals Notice the space for a smoky on top!
Friday the 13th's Devilshead stash!
Had the opportunity to go on another open dig this year at the Topaz Mountain Gem Mine operated by Glacier Peak Mining. As many know we’ve had some serious drought this year and has aided to many forest fires. We have gotten some relief with an early monsoonal flow pattern with the weather and have had several days of heavy rain; one day which was at this mine. I got there at 8:30 and a few people were already there. We all were just walking (crawling) around and looking for topaz that were laying on the top of the soil that had been washed off; in the early morning sun they were pretty easy to spot. I found several small fragments and others found some killer stones just laying on the surface; but after about 30 minutes of combing the area I decided to start digging…because that is what I do.
I had to move off a muddy layer (about 4-6 inches) on a pile to get to dry gravel to be able to start raking. The first 90 minutes or so was simply to get “set up”. I did not find anything raking so I tried my hand at sifting. I was going through a lot of material but still nothing! So I decided to start working like I do when I dig for Smoky Quartz and Amazonite and use a shovel and scrape small amounts off into a hole and watch the dirt as it falls. I immediately started having luck with this technique and found a nice stone. So I did this in combination with raking and sifting the rest of the day and found a good stone about every 45 to 60 minutes. I had a great day; this is uncommon to find so many nice stones but I was moving through a lot of dirt too–which I found is the key.
I found the following topaz next; it was a shiny object in the wall of the hole I was digging. This one was cool because it appeared it had grown around a Smoky Quartz crystal originally. It had several fractures and would not be a cutter; but it is beautiful none-the-less. Of course, holding it is memorizing and the picture doesn’t do it justice!
This beautiful specimen had great facets and indentation from a smoky quartz.
I continued and found a couple of more stones; one that *may* be a cutter. It started to sprinkle and you could hear the mean thunder echo through the valley of storms that were forming and passing directly to our Northwest; I assumed we’d have rain and the day would be cut short so I didn’t want to stall and take lunch so I kept digging. About 3:00 or so I dug into a another nice clear topaz that had mostly faceted sides. It is simply beautiful and although it could be a nice cut stone I’m going to have a hard time giving it up for cutting as it is just too spectacular as Gaia produced it!
This is a spectacular faceted clear topaz!
The sun went away behind the storm clouds and it started to get darker as the storm clouds bellowed and became more dense. I kept thinking “just one more” and I’ll be done; you know how that usually goes! I decided since a few folks were still there I’d continue as long as I could. A bolt of lightning struck withing 1/2 mile and I decided it was time to go; but immediately after I was shook by the bolt a found the find of the day. What a perfect ending to such a fun and lucky day! It was a 105 carat sherry stone. This stone also had remnants of being grown against other crystals and it had a nice area that was fracture free and likely could be cut. Upon checkout, Krystle didn’t want to give this stone up but luckily I took some extra cash and she was gracious enough to let me have it! I definitely will get this cut and will post a picture when I receive it…it *will* be beautiful!
Fantastic Sherry Topaz
One other great part of the day is that I was able to find many smoky quartz crystals too; a couple were large points and one really nice crystal! All in all, was one incredible day at the mine; I met a couple of really great folks and hopefully will get the chance to dig there again this year! Krystle was correct; I did have a productive day (and year so far for that matter!); hopefully future visits will yield one or two of these and I’ll call it a successful day!
Found some great smoky quartz points today too
This pile includes stones from the bag of topaz I purchased as well; the kids got to sift through the bag when I got home!
Topaz Mountain Gem Mine - July 7th, 2012 Open Dig! I did quite well!
Posted July 7th, 2012. 2 comments
Took the family up near Tarryall Northwest of Lake George to the Topaz Gem Mine for the first open dig of the year. Joe Dorris and his family are awesome supporters of Rockhounds and Gem & Mineral clubs and allow families to come and visit a few times per year.
We took advantage of this year’s first dig and started off pretty slow. We took a portable fold-up chair and after lunch the chair ended up getting blown into a big pit. I went to retrieve the chair and as I was bending down I saw a rock with shapes covered in dried mud. I rubbed it off and it was a specimen quality topaz of nearly 300 carats! That got everyone digging harder and everyone found one (except Trevor ). Hunter found a huge bi-color (blue/champagne) cubic shaped beast (about 250 carats) and Daphne found a clear, near perfect crystal (about 8 carat) that doesn’t really need cutting as the facets are awesome! Erin found a couple of nice cutters too.
Posted May 1st, 2012. 4 comments
We’ve been wanting to do this trip for a while; so we decided to embark on a long 3-day weekend trip with my dad and my kids to go Selenite digging in the Great Salt Plains in North-central Oklahoma. I did some calling around and because of the oil boom and the Wynoka Rattlesnake Festival no hotels were available except in Enid; so we opted for a place in neighboring Anthony Kansas–the Anthony Motel & Cafe.
The Cafe was closed and I think we were the only non-oil industry guests at the motel; but it was nice enough…we got the Harley room so who could ask for more? Got there Friday evening and hung out in the room and went to bed early. Drove south to Cherokee OK on Saturday morning and headed out to the Salt Plains. Being a storm chaser as well; I was amazed that we were in the center of the high risk area; so we kept our eye open for building storms all day…
The wind was brutal; about a 30-40 mile southerly wind all day that picked up about 3:00pm…so we decided we had enough digging and decided to leave. Of course, like everyone else, we lost several things that blew out of the back of the truck and we couldn’t catch them it was blowing so hard!
We dug all day and found that the Selenites were a couple of inches below the ground. Hunter discovered that if you dug near the standing water you’d find crystals right away. They said to dig a hole in the sand, let it fill with water (we are at the water table) and then use a bucket or can to wash the sand from the walls. This did work and crystals did fall into the murky, sandy water; but we discovered that the Crystals exist right at the interface between the sand and clay usually; so we ended up just digging horizontal about 3″ below that interface and then pulling out the crystals on the top of the sand rather than in the water…seemed quicker and easier. You can either set out the crystals in the wind to dry; or just toss them in a bucket…we did both.
There appeared to be several types of crystals. Those that formed in the sand, we called them “Sandy”. Those that formed in the clay that were larger and brownish. Those that formed in clay that were bow-ties of sand in clear crystals, we called them “bow ties”. Those that formed in both sand and clay; we called them “changlings”.
Note that digging this way you have to be careful with your shovel as it is easy to break or bend it…we bent one of ours and another person there broke their metal shovel. The clay is stiff and heavy; so go easy. Daphne discovered the “motherload” of the day which put us into the great clusters and bow-tie crystals…of course this was just before we wanted to leave so we ended up staying an extra hour…but it was worth it.
We went home and saw the storms forming on radar…the ones that looked to impact our location of Anthony were at the time near Woodward, OK; which is where several folks died. The storm directly impacted Cherokee where we were all day (note that when we drove through every carwash and other bay was taken by cars already). I decided not to chase the storms given I was with the family and in Erin’s truck (hail damage was not an option; plus some of the side dirt roads would not be good in her car) so we decided to hang out in Anthony. About dark; the storm came through and we took refuge in the local funeral home basement; which was the normal storm shelter after the sirens started blaring! The kids got a good experience of what it is like to be a citizen in tornado prone areas (they’ve been on several chases with me prior…so they know that side too; which isn’t as scary). The twister went about 4 miles SE of town on its way to Wichita.
On the way home Daphne wanted to see “tornado damage” so I chose a route to put us through where I read there were touch-downs. We saw some damage near Hudson which was relatively minor; albeit still scary!
Overall a great trip, some amazing crystals and chased by a storm on a high risk day in the heart of tornado alley! Great fun!
The gallery below is best viewed full screen (click that FS option in the lower right)…
Going through some old photos I pulled out some from the trip to Groaning Cave. Hopefully I’ll get to visit this cave again once the white nose bat fungus is no longer a threat!
Posted February 20th, 2012. Add a comment