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!
I had the opportunity to visit the famous Smoky Hawk claim with Joe Dorris with the Fort Collins Rockhounds club. Joe allowed us to dig in some recently excavated material and also in the piles of tailings.
Beautiful view from up here; Haymen Fire burn boundry
A look up at the reclamation area that was on the New Crystal Hunters video
I right away started digging on some quartz in a pegmatite vein and found some small pockets; filled with small coated Amazonite, Smoky Quartz and Fluorite crystals. Even though these were all very small (probably biggest Fluorite was an inch) it was fun playing in the small pockets and collecting mostly Fluorite and Amazonite which both have been elusive for me!
Some of the Fluorites found in the small pockets
Went on to dig in the tailings piles and found many cool Amazonite crystals for the rock garden and also a nice Fluorite!!! Had a great day and learned a ton!
Small Amazonite clusters from inside the pockets
One of the nicer Amazonite crystals from the tailings
Killer Fluorite crystal found in the tailings
In retrospect, I had a great year digging at Devil’s Head in the Pike National Forest. Firstly, I can be digging in about 65 minutes from starting the car here at the house. Nothing like being close to the action! 2009 was definitely a beginner’s year for me and I learned quite a bit. I also got quite lucky (and unlucky).
I ended up finding a spot (luck!) that produced right away. I visited that hole about 6-7 times this fall. Most days were good; but there were a couple of days that did not produce. I buried the hole but am thinking about digging it out again next spring…we’ll see, it won’t be the first time I buried that hole and then dug it out again!
I believe everything I was finding was Miarolitic Cavities as opposed to pegmatite vugs. For the most part these these were right at the boundary between the roots and harder rock about 8 – 18 inches below the surface. Joe Dorris has a nice description of these on his website. I also found, digging in old unfilled abandoned holes, several deeper pockets filled with thick red clay and some crystals. I’m assuming these are more “vug” type structures in the pegmatites. That red clay is definitely a mess!
Highlights of the hole I was digging in were the many large double terminated crystals my dad found on the first day of snow in Colorado this year. Also some really nice orthoclause crystals, one which is multicolored in squares. We found nice smoky quartz crystal heads from sub-inch to about 4 inches in all different quality. Some were nice large “gemmy” color…the further south you get the darker the crystals it seems here in Colorado. I have a cigar box full of small crystals, and several larger individuals and a few crystals on harder matrix/feldspar.
Here are the fruits of my (and Hunter’s) labor on my second day in my hole. We found a pocket that I could stick my hand into which was very exciting, that seemed more like a small vug/pocket as it was surrounded by very hard rock. Most of the small crystals came from a pocket about a foot higher, likely a Miarotilic Cavity?
This is the same hole but the next time I went with my dad. It was snowing so hard that we ended up having to leave we were so cold…
These were some of the best crystals to come out of this hole. My dad was digging and extracting the bigger crystals and I was taking my new screen I just bought at the Gem and Mineral show the day before to sift for “smaller” ones.
On my last day in this hole of 2009, I found several small pockets along the root/rock line parallel to a quartz-ish vein about a foot away from the vein. That afternoon I dug for about 5 hours and found nothing, so I need to determine if this spot is worth continuing with next year. This is the coolest thing when you pull off a rock and see a “hole”. Sometimes they pan out, sometimes they don’t.
Here is another pocket I found. I would just run my hand along the top of this hole loosening the dirt/rock and the cleared out base would be filled with rock and crystals. This is a common way I pull these smaller points out of the ground.
2009 was blast and I got hooked on finding smokeys. We have joined the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society and plan to learn a lot this year and go on several digs, including the private claims that the society works. My number 1 goal is to better understand how to find geological features that will tell you where a good place to dig is; that is the hardest part so far in my experience.
Oh, and sometimes, a rock falls onto your hand and there is a crystal on top of it. This happened twice this year. That was nice slender half-dollar sized crystal!