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
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)…
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.
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!