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!
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.
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)…
Rockhounding for Selenite, Cherokee Oklahoma - April 2012
I finally received my topaz that Joe Dorris arranged to have cut for me–there were all ones that I dug from the ground! These are great for the most part; one has some pits and are issues with the original stone that I didn’t see. Now I have to figure out how to set them into some jewelry!
Not all of these were sent to get cut…only the four circled were sent.
Topaz before cutting
Here are the stones afterward the 10 month wait (this was abnormally slow I guess, definitely worth the wait and fees)…
Did a bunch of prospecting this trip with my dad; we started by finding some nice large float pieces but could not find the source of these; which could have been a road. We ate lunch and then ran upon this spot which had been excavated prior; but we saw a couple of signs of Amazonite so we decided to dig. I was finding “okay” Amazonite crystals and my dad was working the larger pegmatite next to an existing hole. Dad finally ran into a small side pocket off of the side and pulled out some of the nicer, large smokeys of the day!
I found relatively few crystals but several faint Amazonite parts and so was having a good time. The Amazonites came from the hole above my head shown in the next picture. A few days later I came back and found a bunch of smokys in the unearthed area above my head into the side of the hill. The grey circle is where I finished the day and found the nice plate shown below.
Excavating Devilshead smokey crystals and Amazonite
Amazonites (uncleaned) from the first day at this location
Here is the plate from the small seam; it was neat to see how the seam opened up and the signs in the rock as that happened. Thanks to my dad for uncovering much of this evidence! That was hard work! The piece needs clean and trimmed; currently it is about 10 inches wide!
Find of the day, this plate with Amazonites and Smokies
After the exciting time with Dad last year, I took Hunter up to dig for Topaz on one of Joe Dorris’ open digs. We spent all day digging and did find some great specimens, but it was very slow going at first. Joe suggested a pile for Hunter and I and he found the first one of the day. We raked as normal there and eventually I pulled out a couple of small shards. The finds of the day were towards the end of the day for both Hunter and I where we found some incredible specimen crystals! Mine was blue and Hunter’s was really sharp and non-worn. Overall, a wonderful day; and as always great thanks to Joe Dorris for making these days possible!
Dave's topaz finds - hard to see the blue Topaz against blue sky...
Hunter's Topaz finds!
Bags 'O Dirt Topaz from Joe's prepared bags
Here are the specimen quality crystals Hunter and I found
What a great trip. Went camping on BLM land (thanks for the Tip on these sites, Tim!) with Tim and JD Isenhart and Hunter. Tim offered to drive and since I had never done that road before (and had been warned that the Touareg wouldn’t make it up because of lack of clearance) I was excited to finally go to this long awaited destination!
We left first thing and make the long journey to the top. I think I could have made it with the VW, but there were 2 spots that would have been tricky. The road was definitely rough and high clearance is definitely required. We got to the top and started looking through the old tailings from the days of mining Beryl. Right away we found traces of aquamarine and started digging. Hunter didn’t dig that much but had a keen eye as he found most of the great rocks of the day. His double-terminated phenokyte (with remnants of Aquamarine) is spectacular; his topaz was great as well!
The drive was great and I hope to get up there again soon!
Information sign at the base of the very rough road to Mt Antero
Beautiful Beaver pond at the stream crossing on the road to Mt Antero summit
JD Isenhart and the beautiful view as we were getting close to the summit
Hunter and the destination parking area (behind) of Mt Antero
Some Chlorite (?) and Blue Beryl from Mt Antero
Hunter's topaz crystal
I believe this is a piece of Galena
Hunter's double-terminated Phenokyte with Aquamarine
Hunter's double-terminated Phenokyte
We ended the weekend stopping by Ruby Mountain which was basically just a few miles away. Hunter and I had already scoped this area out and found a bazillion Apache Tears and found what the Rhyolite looked like with some Garnets. JD and Tim found this nice garnet before leaving to go fishing.
With a 50 minute (minimum) commute each way to work, I have an opportunity to listen to audiobooks like I’ve never had before. Thus I was able to read more books in 2010 than pretty much my whole life combined! Some of the books go back to the latter months of 2009; I don’t remember exactly when I read which books; but I wanted to include them all so I didn’t forget about them!
Dan Brown Books:
As anyone who has read Dan Brown knows, he packs a lot of excitement into his books and also presents very interesting “historical” perspective (although how much is actual history is masked and center of heated debate! Awesome!) Ask your pastor to argue this point . I really like these books; especially Angels and Demons and The Lost Symbol. I actually really appreciate the “conspiracy theory” angle that Dan writes from as I believe it inspires some interesting soul searching and can challenge much of the basis of what people believe, regardless of what you believe! I highly recommend any of these books!
Terry Goodkind Sword of Truth Series Books:
I have finally finished off this series, a total of 12 books (so far). These are LONG books, over 6000 pages for the books listed above. For those that are unfamiliar with this fantasy series, a good synopsis of the series and each book can be found via Wikipedia. I really like Terry Goodkind’s writing style; the story offers a level of detail that keeps coming back and made me wonder how much time he spent mapping out all the fine details prior to writing the book(s); it all made sense and was quite intricate at times. He also had nice twist and turns in the story to keep things interesting.
I also watched the made-for-TV series based on these books (done by Sam Raimi which was awesome) called Legend of the Seeker which aired for two seasons. I actually discovered the TV series 2 weeks before it was completed; I was channel surfing and stopped on the fantasy-based show and recognized the story right away (although it was significantly different that the books, especially season 2, but still fun to watch). My kids loved it!
The Law of Nines books wasn’t part of this series, but definitely was linked to the series which was cool.
C.J. Box Books:
My folks bought me Blood Trail for Christmas as they thought I’d like it. I did, very much. C.J. Box is a writer out of Wyoming that writes rural thrillers. Blood Trail is one of the Joe Pickett series, much like Dan Brown always having Robert Langdon as the main protagonist. Joe Pickett is a Game Warden that get caught up in murders and other thrilling adventures. Blue Heaven was a stand alone book (not in the Pickett series) based on two kids that witness a murder and then have to run for their lives. Below Zero is about a environmental nut and Chicago mobster who kidnap a girl and take her along for their environmental redemption spree! I look forward to reading more C.J. Box this year!
Daemon by Dan Suarez is a cyber thriller about a video game tycoon that upon his death sends the video game objects into the real world. Erin read it too and said it is guy’s book; not much to offer from a girl’s perspective; and I guess I can see this in a couple of the scenes of the book; but overall I think this was a fun cyber-thriller!
The Demon Under the Microscope I really enjoyed as it talked about the drug industry before and during the invent of Sulfa anti-biotic drugs. This was a wonderful historical record of how medicine truly changed the world! Likewise The Last Voyage of Columbus was a great insight on what being a pioneer was all about!
My friend Natalie said I had to read the Book Thief and it was a wonderful book accounting the life in Nazi Germany of a adopted girl who had hard luck worse than anyone I know through hiding a Jew and learning to read while facing what was going on in Nazi Germany. A wonderful book!
Bill Maher’s book I have to admit I bought for the cover…I like propaganda and that was a spoof on a very popular poster! The book is quite good; well thought out and in the typical Bill Maher style.
Graffiti L.A. is a very comprehensive history of Graffiti in L.A. Lots of wonderful pictures as well.
Found Magazine is awesome; my sister gave me this for Christmas. These books are just found letters and such that people send to this magazine and they publish them. I have submitted some stuff I’ve found to the magazine; but nothing has been published as of yet.
The Peppers book was great as it told the history of cultivation of Peppers, search for peppers roots and where they came from, modern pepper genetics, and how Tasbasco company was lame early on in defeating its competition with politics rather than other means.
Mike Nelson’s Colorado Weather Almanac is an absolute must read for anyone interested in weather, especially Colorado weather. After reading the book you can understand how the weather guys often get the weather forecast completely wrong!
Tornadoes of the United States by Snowden D Flora is from 1958 (2nd printing) and is a great look at Tornadoes back when we knew nearly nothing about them. Great statistics and information about outbreaks in the first half of the 20th century. I’m currently reading his book Hail Storms of the United States.
Cloud Study is a neat old book reprinted in 1960 that talks about clouds and their formation. This has some great older photos and is a fun read.
Weather is an awesome coffee table book; I bought this at the National Storm Chaser Conference back in 2009 with the Hunt for the Red Sprite DVD. Adventures in Tornado Alley has wonderful pictures from Nebraska storm chaser Mike Hollingshead and is the UK version (Hardback was not available here in the US). Jim Reed’s book is also great and full of wonderful photographs.
Nancy Mathis book has a lot of information about tornado research pioneer Ted Fujita and details the F5 Moore OK tornado from May 3, 1999.
Between my dad and myself we were able to pick up many rockhounding books, a couple had several editions. It was nice to read the older editions as there sometimes was information available that was not available in the newer editions. The best guide of the lot was Voynicks Rockhounding Colorado, although I enjoyed all of them.
Kirk Johnson’s book Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway was a great book joining him on a “road trip” around the high plains in search of fossils. Great illustrations too.
I read several other mining and colorado rock books but don’t remember the names; I believe my dad has these so perhaps someday I’ll add them to the list.
Analog Days was a wonderful book taking a look at the early days of Robert Moog and the invention of his synthesizer. It followed the business describing the other companies and competition and gave an overall wonderful history of the evolution of Analog Synthesizers.
Theremin was an incredible book detailing the life of a Russian spy masked by very early electronic music! A must read for anyone interested in propaganda and electronic music!
The Cabaret Voltaire and Siouxsie biographies were a great look into the early days of these influential bands in the late 70′s England!
I was introduced to Freddy Fresh on his record label Analog Records. This was harder edged analog acid techno from the early 90s! He was an avid collector (like me) of analog synthesizers and modulars and I loved his work. I didn’t realize until reading through this guide that he was so versed in early hip-hop/rap music. Definitely a cool guide to records that started the genre.
That’s about it; and that’s a bunch of books; especially for me!
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.