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
Went up with Hunter to visit the April Fools claim for the first time of the year. Ended up finding some exposed Pegmatite that had been worked prior but not in a while; so I was curious and investigated. Right away I found some shapes immediately above the pegmatite in the dirt layer, including the larger crystal of the day. I worked the hard rock and found a couple of small pockets where I uncovered many phantom Smoky Quartz crystals and some neat smaller Fluorite crystals. No Amazonite on this day, but still some great crystals!
Biggest Smokey of the day, double terminated and coated
Here are the double coated Phantom Smoky/White Quartz crystals
Wow, what a great day. We took a visit with the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society to the Holcim Cement Quarry near Portland Colorado. NOTE, you must obtain permission from the Quarry manager to rockhound here; the only way I know to do this is to join a club and go on their field trip. I got down to Portland a little early and I hung out next to the factory enjoying the crisp morning. It looks like there used to be a town dedicated to the cement company; and I guess they used to give employees credits that could only be redeemed at the company store. Talk about the company owning their employees! Now none of that exists; but none-the-less interesting stuff! This was a Boettcher company.
We went down into the Quarry and started to dig in the piles left by the monster dump trucks (i.e. big piles). We were searching mainly for pyrite balls but also calcite and if we were lucky fossils. Rumor is that you sometimes can find pyritized fish skeletons; so of course I was on the lookout for this! I guess the pyrite was left over from clams and at first I was having a problem finding them; but after a while I seemed to figure it out and had a pyrite ball finding fest! Later in the morning we headed up to the top of the Quarry and hit some “older” piles. Here I found some clam fossils and much more pyrite balls.
Overall, this was an incredible trip and I hope to get the chance to do it again; I know the kids will love to do it as well as it is pretty easy work (lots of bending over and walking on rocky/uneven surfaces) and there is a lot to find (unlike digging quartz crystals, where there could be nothing gained for the effort). Here is a video I put together of the trip showing the Quarry, finding Pyrite and Pyrite balls and some clam fossils.
There were 3 distinct types of pyrite balls that I found. With lack of knowledge of the scientific names, I invented my own terms for them. There are spiked balls, balls with square crystals and regular balls as seen in the following 3 pictures. I did find some “mushroom” shaped balls and also doubles and triples. Neat!
Cleaning these is easy; I just set them in a beaker (glass is fine) with vinegar and let them sit for several hours to a couple of days to get most of the limestone/clay off. Note that with some if you took too much off they fall apart; so I learned the hard way on a couple of nice balls.
My dad and I were fortunate to go on the annual field trip with the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society to Joe Dorris’s Topaz Mine. This was a great day and Joe was a wonderful host! The day started by us just sifting through some piles of dirt with rakes. Joe and his son were using the excavator and had us move a couple of times to ensure we were out of harms way.
My dad constructed a nice screen and we used this all day long. I found that I didn’t need the screen though, when you find a topaz it is very shiny and stands out as the dirt does not stick to it. We found several small stones in blue and yellow color. Joe also provides “bags of dirt” that we purchase to help offset the costs of having us as visitors all day and he “spikes” these bags with a few stones. There was a nice and huge ~150 carat tumbled alluvial stone in my bag!
Here is a beautiful stone that Joe found at the end of the day after almost everyone left (my dad and I stayed until Joe’s team left). When the excavator unearthed this beauty, we all saw it at once; they are pretty easy to see when they are this big!
After all was said and done; my dad and I had a wonderful day and between what we found and the gifts planted in our “bags of dirt” we feel we really scored! Huge thanks goes out to Joe Dorris for hosting and the CSMS club for arranging this wonderful day!
Went with my dad and my son to the CSMS April Fools claim today. Started off with snow on the ground. Drove around the area for a while looking for the proper Claim Posts; in searching through them we found a couple smokeys in the gravel of the road. Pretty cool and good eyes by Dad and Hutner. Did some pretty serious hills too; Hunter was questioning if the hills were drivable…I figured since there was a road then it was!
W started by looking around at other holes and piles. Right away found some small Amazonite crystals. My dad found a nice clear Fluorite; the first I’ve seen pulled from the ground! Found some nice smaller plates with white quartz and purple flourite cubes and cube-octo-hedronds? Cool shapes! Started to dig and got a descent hold but I still have no confidence in knowing what I’m looking for. I’ve had success at Devilshead when digging to look for larger rock at the root rock layer just under the surface. Also look for increased mica in the dirt/rock. I figured I needed to dig around that layer and taking from some of the other pits I guessed at a good depth to go to. I dug aligned with a nice vug that someone found, about 20-30 feet away along the hill. After a couple of hours, we all decided to walk around and given it was after a couple big snows and see if we could learn more and also check the dumps for leftovers.
Nice plate we found with Quartz & Fluorite
We had a great day, and garage door to pit it was about 2 hours from home. Nice! Devilshead is about 1 hour 15 minutes including the hike, so nice having a couple hot spots so close! We can’t wait for the July fieldtrip so we can peek at how the experts do it and hopefully have a higher probability of success!
Closeup of beautiful purple Fluorite
Another piece with some nice double terminated quartz.
On Saturday April 17th, 2010 the whole family, along with my dad, went on a hike to North Table Mountain open space in search of Zeolites along with the Flatirons Mineral Club, led and special thanks goes out to Dennis Gertenbach for his organizing this trip. I had done some reading on what to expect but this was my first hard-rock pounding experience.
We did the 3/4 mile trail and ascended 700 feet up to the Southeastern Quarry. We overlooked both buildings that I worked at Coors so many years ago so the mountain was definitely familiar; but I had no idea that you could hike on this land (I thought it was private still) and had no clue what I could have been doing during lunch each day! Once we got up to the Quarry, I immediately noticed the nice bricks that were piled up on the front of the hill and was amazed that folks could actually somehow carve out those shapes from the boulders that were all around. I would love to know more about how folks do this.
Immediately we started to see crystals in the rocks and it didn’t take long to find what we were after. Hunter and Daphne started finding rocks right away with cool crystals; and my dad continued with the luck of the Irish and immediately found a large boulder with several exposed vugs that he started working.
Later in the morning my dad was pounding away at his large boulder at a crack he found and ended up splitting the boulder and exposing a new vug. Inside was some amazing Thomsonite, Chabazite and Analcime crystals. There also was an interesting black crystal that we still have not identified. I ended up finding some cool crystals but eventually started to work on the nice pieces my dad was pulling off of the boulder. There was no way we could carry the big pieces down so I started to work on downsizing into more manageable sized pieces.
After a couple of hours it started to rain and we decided to head down and have lunch. We ended up with some great crystals and this is a spot I definitely want to go back to in the future! With a larger sledgehammer next time!
Here was the nice piece that came from the vug my dad found. Thomsonite, Chabazite and Analcime.
Here is an Analcime crystal.
Here is some more Analcime crystals as part of a vug.