Sunday Slow-Down improv set

Sunday Slow-Down picture taken by @Nix_Morton.

Charles

COEC @ SSD-1

I will be doing a live, ambient/electronic improv set with Charles Ballas in Denver on Sunday March 5th, 2017. Conveniently located off of the central light rail line at Alameda Station, should be no reason for you not to slow-down your Sunday and join us.  4-6pm. White Whale Room is the venue; looks like a ultra hip place to spend the afternoon!

Sunday Slow-Down live electronic music

The theme of this event will be simplicity.  No car needed, I’ll just have focus on one piece of gear, likewise Charles will bring a guitar and looper pedal.  We’re going as Chill Out Enforcement Crew and do take our jobs seriously!  LOL.

The flyer is turntable illusion art.  Print it and stick it on your LP player for some optical illusions!  Then you’ll fully understand the vibe we’re looking forward too!

Obliq Museum: Korg Triton Restoration

I have been wanting a Korg Triton synthesizer since they were released in 1999.  At that time I had a Korg Trinity which we used heavily, as you may have heard in our Multicast tracks.  The Triton has a built in sampler and expansion available for MOSS functionality (Korg Prophecy engine), which I’m now on the market for! 

I found a Triton on Craigslist but it had some issues.  The price was right so I went ahead and took the challenge of hopefully being able to find the issue and then fix it.  I know that Triton parts are getting hard to find since it was discontinued.  It has the two memory cards and also the EXB-PCM04 Dance Extreme expansion board.  So an awesome setup once I get it fixed!

More restoration stories can be found here

Korg Triton

Korg Triton as it was when I brought it home, you can see the issue with the one “E” key

Korg Triton Power

Here is the sketchy power. The whole assembly was broken and the power button was gone.

The person I bought it from was a vet and this synth had seen the desert and likely many other places upon this earth!  It likely brought joy to many, so the karma is good!  The plastic buttons and modulation joystick assembly were all heavily discolored, likely due to sitting in intense sunlight for a long period of time. There is no way to fix the plastic discoloration issue without replacing all those pieces, which would be very expensive (if you could find the parts) and given that is cosmetic I’m not overly concerned.  Part of the character of buying a used synthesizer!

Here were the problems that I diagnosed that needed fixed:

  1. Power assembly was completely broken, but still worked
  2. E Key was broken
  3. Something in the I/O boards were broken causing the touchscreen to now work properly
  4. Several screws were missing and/or were not seated properly (cosmetic)

The big issue was the touchscreen issue.  You couldn’t choose the drop-down menu (upper right) which rendered the synth very unusable.  Upon troubleshooting this I found that it was a slider issue.  The likely culprit was the Value slider.  I found a replacement slider online but I wasn’t sure it was just the slider.  I cleaned the slider but it still didn’t work, so I assumed it was the slider but I wanted to find a replacement of the 2085 control board if possible.

I found all the parts for the power assembly new at Keyboard Kountry (check them out, they have a great stock of replacement parts for Tritons and other keyboards).  I also bought a replacement set of screws since some were missing and others were slightly stripped.  Nice that they offered this!  They also had the “E” key for a great price.

The 2085 board was a different story…there were no boards available on the internet that I could find, except one I found in Austria on eBay.  I’ve had mixed results buying used parts on eBay in the past, but the seller had a good feedback rating and said it was 100% working, so I took a chance and purchased the board.  It took 2 weeks to arrive.

Here are the boards after I removed them. The upper right is the jack board, the upper center is the 2085 human interface board and the lower tray holds the CPUs.

The keyboard assembly, the bottom (with floppy drive attached) and main control board still attached to the chassis.

Reference photos showing the headphone jack connection (there are two small sockets on the jack board that are the same, so I wanted to be sure to remember what went where)

Reference photo showing the wiring of the jacks and wiring harnesses

Triton motherboard wiring

Reference photo of the main motherboard wiring

The parts came in within a couple of weeks, and I started to do the repair and reassembly work.  The power assembly was simple, two screws and a simple plug into the power supply PCB.  That took 5 minutes and now works like a charm!

Triton Power Supply Assembly

Power assembly showing the jack into the PCB. Simple replacement; nice to find a full assembly with button at Keyboard Kountry!

Triton Power

Power looks much better and is safe!

To replace the broken key, you have to remove the keyboard assembly entirely, which is a bit of effort!  At the top of the keys there is a plastic clip that sits along the entire assembly. Sliding this off, you now have room to slide the key upwards and it will pop right out. Putting the new key in is the same, in reverse.  Then re-position the clip and you’re good to go!  

Replacing Keys

Most keyboards are similar to this, there is a plastic “clip” that sits on the back edge of the keyboard assembly, removing this provides a small amount of space that allows enough room to slide the keys back and they will pop out

Triton broken key

This shows the broken key from the back, the plastic guides should be showing like the other white keys; those were busted off and the key needed replaced

Broken vs New "E" Key

If you are missing a key entirely, you MUST make sure you get that metal insert–this replacement key didn’t come with one so I got lucky that I already had it!  Without this metal piece the key will not work properly. If you are replacing the key like I am, you transfer this metal to the new key. Notice the broken plastic guides that render the key useless

The most difficult part of the reassembly was the wiring.  I noted this and added some tape with reference letters to help me remember where the harnesses attached to.  Note that the wiring is “just long enough” to reach its destinations, so that also helps with reassembly, as does the different amounts of wires in the sockets/jacks–only a couple were the same size and coupled with the wire length being exact it made it easier to know what went where.  But given there are a lot of wiring, reference shots and labeling as you disassemble are always a good idea!  

Headphone Jack

There are two small audio connectors on this jack board. I highlighted here (in red) the headphones jack that runs to the front, lower left, of the unit.

Now the Korg Triton is fully functional!  Awesome!  The sounds are killer and I’m just starting to play with the synthesis engine!  The unit was pretty dirty so i scrubbed it down and was able to pull off some of the grime; but unfortunately there are many scratches that are more than skin deep and again that is the “character” you get when buying synthesizers second hand!  

Overall this restoration project consumed about 8 hours of time and parts cost a little over $100.  Parts are getting difficult to find, however, and so even if the synth isn’t “vintage” it may still be a difficult restoration project…note to self!  I got lucky on this one that I was able to procure all the parts immediately without having to put together repetitive web searches like I’ve done for other classic synthesizers in the past!

Here are some great resources for the Korg Triton:

 

Morning Photography

February 3rd 2017 was a cold, brisk morning in Larkspur.  We had a good fog all night and the temperature went down to 15 degrees in the morning.  I started my daily journey toward the megalopolis while dawn was just unfolding and I felt the urge to turn around to grab my camera.  It was beautiful out!  

So, I turned around and went back home and grabbed the camera.  Along the first 5 miles of my route I stopped many times and took some photos.  I then was treated to an elk herd that was in plain view so I stopped and watched them for a while.  

A fun start to my drive to work!  As always these photos are previews, click on the photo for a larger version.

bear dance sageport sterling point larkspur

My road home

fog larkspurfrost fog tree larkspur fog

crull cabin larkspur colorado

More on Crull Cabin…
http://larkspurhistoricalsociety.org/?page_id=1174

bokah frost fence wire

I was happy with the bokah effect on this shot!

crull cabin larkspur larkspur elk larkspur elk larkspur elk larkspur elk larkspur elk larkspur elk larkspur elk

elk larkspur

I especially like this picture with the frost on the scrub oak.

KGNU Electronic Air #1

electronic air - dj davealexI’ve always been a fan of Electronic Air over its 21 year history, and I was invited in late 2016 to become part of the crew.  I will be a substitute DJ and fill in for the regulars when they need a break from the action.  

I have been away from radio DJing for over 20 years and am really excited to be part of this amazing crew, and to DJ again.  Tune in, it will be great!

Here is the teaser I pushed out with one day to go…

Electronic Air dj davealex

KGNU Debut DJ Set

As part of becoming a KGNU Community Radio volunteer DJ one must create a demo and then do one of the late night shows.  My first late night show was Sleepless Nights on the morning of January 22, 2017 from midnight to 3am.  

It was a very fun show, I was pretty tired as I don’t stay up this late usually, but fun.  I broadcast out of the Santa Fe Arts District in Denver Colorado.  Hour one was post-punk and cold-wave, hour two was Acid, and hour three was a little bit of everything electronic.  

Sleepless Nights - Jan 22, 2017

Here is the streaming show.

Here is the playlist:

  • Anthony Rother – Protektor – Hacker
  • Depeche Mode – Oberkorn (Its A Small Down) Development Mix – Meaning Of Love 12″
  • Konstruktivist – Lone Groover – Destiny Drive
  • Kline Coma Xero – Left Behind – Kline Coma Xero
  • – voicebreak –
  • Schonwald – Inland – Between Parallel Lights
  • Clan Of Xymox – A Day – Clan Of Xymox
  • Manika Girgir – ?????? ?????/Sang Tiede – Torment
  • Momentform – Momentform Is Fake – S/T – EP
  • Solvent – My Radio (Legowelt’s RMX) – My Radio 12″
  • Dynarec – All Automatic – Exomove EP (Elektronische Werke Part 1) – EP
  • – voicebreak –
  • Illustration Sonore – Flying Lights – Circuit D’actes
  • Ausgang Verboten – Joy And Ease – Entertainment
  • – voicebreak –
  • Morph – Stormwatch – Stormwatch
  • Disintegrator – Dark Black Ominous Clouds – Disintegrator
  • Mike Dred – Macrocosm – Macrocosm
  • E621 & Link – Antacid II (Jedi Knights Remix) – Antacid
  • – voicebreak –
  • Aire Liquide – Unser Elektronischer Mikrokosmos – Neue Frankfurter Elektronik Schule
  • F.U.S.E. – Substance Abuse – Dimension Intrusion
  • Underground Resistance – Moor Horseman On Bolarus 5 – Interstellar Fugitives
  • – voicebreak –
  • Perc & Passarella Death Squad – Temperature’s Rising – Temperature’s Rising
  • Multicast – Gurrr – Multicaster
  • R.Rose – Purge – Vanishing Pools
  • – voicebreak –
  • Scala – Hold Me Down – Beauty Nowhere
  • Luigi Tozzi – Epipelagic – Deep Blue: Volume 2
  • Application – Front End (Remixed By Pye Corner Audio) – Applied Remixes
  • Electronic Dub – Electronic Dub 3 – Electronic Dub
  • – voicebreak

Top Music of 2016

A holiday tradition is to create a top music list for the year.  A group of old DJ friends and I push around our favorites and then rate each other on stuff we’ve never heard.  The rule is 10 albums, so I added 20 releases.  Typically its the hipster millennials that have all the “cool” obscuro stuff no-one has ever heard of, but sometimes us old guys punch in a surprise or two…

Here’s 2015’s list for those that missed it, or for those just wanting to hear some more classic tunes!

Top Album of the Year

Multicast – Multicaster + Iron Feather Journal #21
Out comes the collective work of Multicast from the last 10 years.  Released as a limited edition with the Iron Feather Journal #21 produced in Japan.  Starts off Chill, then gets tense and Acidic, and ends in Chill.  Just when you thought the genre had played out since every hipster has a 303 knock off, acid techno with the real vintage machines as only Multicast can pull off!  

Check out the article I wrote for the zine describing my collection of Vintage Phonographic Toys!  I’m sure not complete, but pretty comprehensive if you’re into dropping needles!

Iron Feather Journal 21

Ambient :: Acid :: Psychedelic :: Acid :: Dub :: Electronic

Top Music Video of the Year

Multicast – Faster and Faster

World famous material-disco-man Peter Brown puts together an amazing sci-fi adventure to the acid beats of Multicast’s Faster and Faster off of the newest album Multicaster. Entertainment beyond the borders of Earth!  Check it in HD!

Top Single of the Year

Room 506 – Red Embers / Drop Out

Someone put some cool old footage in these videos, kudos.  The popular track is Drop Out, which is an industrial and techno dance floor smasher!  Love it, but I prefer the flip side, Red Embers, which to me is a spell!  That is probably my top track of the year.  The vinyl was limited to 500 gorgeous orange marbled vinyl with a straight black repress. Shipped from Germany for $5, not sure how the seller figured that out!   I got one of both! 🙂

Room 506

Top EP Of The Year

Etapp Kyle – Lyrae

I love the melodic lines through these moderate dance tracks.  The b-side is my favorite but both sides are great!  Etapp Kyle has some great podcasts and other EPs out that are good; but not great like this release on Klockworks.  

Top Remix of the Year

The Soft Moon – Without (Codex Empire Remix)

The Soft Moon album Deeper is a great concept cyberpunk album.  Vocals on Electronic Body Music.  Definitely a highlight find from last year.  The remix album is great; almost every track is a cold warehouse dancefloor killer.  Alternative.  Wear your black!

Top Package of the Year

Twin Peaks Original Score by Angelo Badalamenti

Twin Peaks Soundtrack

Check out a great review with pictures here.  Been 25 years and this soundtrack stands the test of time!  All year rumors on and off about a new season; we’ll see if it ever happens!  The packaging is nice.  Die cut cover with a gatefold album that slips out.  The die cut shows the zigzag pattern of the famous carpet.  Inside the gatefold is a heavyweight multicolor-marbled brown vinyl that sounds delightful as it looks.  

The owls are not what they seem!

Top Local Band of the Year

Sister Grotto – You Don’t Have to Be A House To Be Haunted

I first saw our sister of the underground labyrinths when she opened for Mark McGuire several years back.  Her soft-gaze sound put me under a spell and I would have probably robbed a bank if she commanded it.  This limited cassette release has three deeply emotional and beautiful tracks.  As the title states, quite Haunting!  The choir on the opener is a great production!  

Bootleg of the Year

Siouxsie And The Banshees â€Žâ€“ Live At De Nieuwe Kade, The Netherlands July 7, 1981

Siouxsie - Live

Love this show, had it on MP3 for a long time and found this vinyl in 2016.  I often wonder how many midnight runs go through the record plants unchecked.  Thank you record pressing plant dudes that actually care deeply about collectors!  Grey Marbled Vinyl!

Israel, Halloween, Spellbound, Arabian Knights, Placebo Effect, Headcut, Sin In My Heart, Voodoo Dolly, Happy House.  A great era for the band!  

Other Great Albums of 2016

Schonwald – Between Parallel Lights

I find I listen to this album weekly over the course of the year.  It is definitely modern post-punk.  Definitely for fans of early Clan of Xymox, Cocteau Twins, The Cure and Siouxsie in the Banshees.  The first track “Inland” is the favorite; but one of those albums that lacks a filler track.  I love all of their albums and singles; a very solid band who I’m hoping comes to play Colorado soon!

mitra mitra – self titled

Luscious synth and great female vocals on this post-punk, a coldwave classic! Fans of Chris & Cosey and The Normal take note!

Trentemoller – Fixion

His last 4 albums have been all great; saw him in concert in 2015 and that was great. He’s coming to Denver again in March, I’ll be there with you?  This album has great melody, post-punk basslines and great female vocal collaborations.  A variety of styles mixed in on this overall great record!

Uskmatu – Whisper in a Dream

One of my favorite ex-local producers, Roy England, planted this album on us in 2016!  It is a dub tech excursion with female vocals courtesy of Fatima Lily.  Great vibe on this album, excellent sounds and wonderful mastering.  Remember to Make Mistakes, formally Dope!  

Memorex – Tape Two

What a solid release, excellent synth melodies and counter-melodies throughout, hard to pick a single favorite track!  Killer limited cassette release!  For fans of post-punk and cold wave!  

PERSON:A – Matters

This year’s been great for alternative post-punk albums, and this is a great one.  I’d call the style Cyberpunk.  Dark, Cold Beats.  

 

Great EPs and Singles I found in 2016

Univac – Voltage EP

Simple electro beats from the soundtrack of aliens invading the planet.  Classic detroit style electro funk on this French label classic!  I believe all the classic old school computers are now used for techno band names!  

Application – Front End (Remixed by Pye Corner Audio)

This is what happens when Black Dog meets Pye Corner Audio.  I love this electronica remix for its emotion and melodies full of delay and cheer!  Great melodies throughout, a classic!

Rrose – Vanishing Pools

Was turned onto Rrose in 2016.  Sound design is the theme for all tracks, some drone and some minimal tech.  Wonderful sounds and mastering on these tension tracks!

Drvg Cvltvre & Umvelt – Rave or Die 03

Found the Rave or Die, and its sister label, New Flesh in 2016.  Both have amazing releases!  I have some Umwelt records which targeted me to this.  If you like Clone or Carl Finlow style electro, and acid, then you should give these tracks your mind.  He also has a cool limited vinyl release company he works with…wish I knew more about them! Both tracks are great, but Guts of the City b-side resonates hard! The beat box is simple and pure electro funk.  The track is very dark acid, just how I like it!  

Perc & Passarella Death Squad – Temperature’s Rising

Great dancefloor haunting track.  Great simple vocal sample!  Would work any dance floor in the middle of the night.  Go pagan or go home!

Radere – I Can’t Sleep, I Can’t Wake Up

Colorado’s own Carl Ritger puts out a lush drone record!  Thank you!

Culprit – Initial Beatdown

The sounds of this album are so fresh they can’t be linked to on the internet.  You’ll have to contact Denver’s Culprit directly to hear this amazing record.  A journey…from one side to the other…literally.  Follow the leader.

//not hiphop//not bass//not glitch//not mental//

Top Record Of The Year

Luigi Tozzi – Deep Blue Volume 2

Well, you made it this far and if so I’m impressed, you actually are interested in new music.  So I added this bonus, saving the best for last.  This is an album I discovered while watching the amazing Perseids meteorite shower.  The dark ambient lush skyscapes are perfect for watching star shows, driving, dark places and camping.  My favorite album of 2016!  From Sweden with Love!  Enjoy!

Luigi Tozzi

Here’s a fun timelapse video I did of some star gazing…an added bonus while listening to Luigi above. Thanks for reading, let me know in the comments if you have new albums or tunes I should check out!

The 2016 Summer Crush Pocket

This summer was great, but different than previous, for picking and rockhounding.  My club field trip availability was limited–I led two trips and was able to make only one other.  I went to Gem-o-rama in California with a rockhound buddy (see other blog post for that adventure). The remainder of my rockhounding trips this summer revolved around a pocket I uncovered during one of the club field trips I went on.  I didn’t get out nearly as many times as I have in previous years; but the times I did get out were all high quality, extremely fun and productive!  2016 I would say it was a very successful season!

NOTE:  As always, click on the pictures for a HD version.  Trust me, it’s worth it!  The videos are all available in HD as well.

On my third club field trip of the year I hit into a pocket that consumed 5 days of hard and thrilling work in the following month.  It was the biggest crystal pocket I’ve ever found and had some really interesting and amazing crystals.  It took me until the very last day of digging to think of the proper name for this pocket…over the month I continually thought about the pocket and realized I had a crush on it…and most of the crystals were damaged due to ancient violence, so I figured the name “Crush” described the experience perfectly!

Quartz Pocket Schematic

Here is a _very_ rough drawing of the pocket.  Note I have little artistic skills, lol!  You can see where I entered in the upper right. The crystal pocket measured about 4 meters long, 0.6 meter  diameter and the bottom was 1.5 meters underground.  

It all started with a test hole about a meter from the pocket.  From others’ experience in this area I knew that crystal pockets tended to be rather deep, so all my test holes need to go at least 1/2 meter deep.  When the hole was about a meter diameter, I started to see a shift in color of the soil to a darker brown so I followed it–it was a subtle sign, but something “different” is often what leads you on the crystal trail!  Not too much further I started to get into small chips of quartz which quickly turned into a layer of small quartz chips.  These chips had no faces or flat sides.  Breaking through that layer I entered a zone of darker material and started finding crystal faces.  I was in the top of the pocket!  

Quartz Cluster

The first crystal plate/cluster I pulled out of the top of the pocket.  I’d say that is a good sign of things to come!  

This whole top and side of the pocket (along most of its length, except the ends) was softer clevlandite/feldspar material with large chunks of quartz buried here and there within; these quartz plates had beautiful secondary growth clear quartz all over one side, but in this layer nothing was fully euhedral.  This layer of the pocket was about 10-25 centimeters thick and produced some nice plates of parallel growth clear quartz.  

I continued to follow this trend horizontally (to bottom and right in the above diagram) until I reached the end of the pocket material — I was back into normal top soil-dirt and gravel underneath. That is when I started to excavate straight down.  It was just a few minutes and then I hit extremely red pocket dirt/mud material which is the tell-tale sign of a crystal pocket!  For the rest of the day I continued to pull out more of the same type of secondary growth plates and individual crystals with secondary overgrowth.  Some really neat and unique crystals!

Quartz Cluster

This was the largest plate I pulled out on the first day. The flow of the crystals is evident, this is about 30 cm wide.  Note that the crystals change direction in the middle of the plate so they are pointing toward each other.  I’m sure there is a reason for this, hit me up in the comments if you know why that would be!  You’ll want to click on this image for a close up!

Quartz Cluster

This is a really interesting crystal, I love the large terminated crystal surrounded with the smaller parallel growth, and then the different type of cluster growth at the bottom, first small then larger–all of this on the same plate!  Also, the crystals at the very top are pointing down and immediately they reverse.  

Dave Digging

Thanks to Matt who was also on the field trip for taking this shot; I was back filling the hole as I progressed down.  I was still only about 1/2 way through the depth of the pocket here.  What an awesome day!

I thought I was nearing the end of the pocket at this time, so I buried the hole and packed up for the day knowing I’d come back in a few days, excavate the hole, and finish it off.  It turned out not going the way that I planned…

Given the pocket was trending downwards, my plan for the second day was to remove the overburden over the deepest part of the hole and also widen the hole so I could continue picking crystals starting with a large crystal I already partially uncovered.  Its good to have a plan, but its also good to be flexible!  As I was mucking, I noticed that there was more of the pocket heading the other way (i.e. in the direction of the picture taker in the above shot).  I ended up focusing on that direction for the entire day as the pocket continued, and got better (!!), in the opposite direction than I originally planned!

The pocket continued as described with the crystal plates at the top and side; but as I progressed I noticed that the floor of the pocket had a layer of larger more well formed crystals and finally microcline at the bottom before it ended up gravel.  So I was now seeing the entire dimension of the pocket, about 2/3 meter tall and 1/2 meter wide.  

An hour or so later, in the center of the pocket, the red mud/clay turned to purple in a couple of spots; that is when I started to find some small fluorite crystals.  These fluorites were a truncated octahedron shape, kinda like a soccer ball.  They started out really small (~1 cm) in single crystals but then out came out in small plates.  A 1/4 meter further, along the side wall of the pocket, the fluorites started to get rather large, up to 8 cm.  At the same time the bottom of the pocket had a couple of large quartz crystals.  

Fluorite

This is one of the larger fluorite crystals I pulled out, definitely the largest on the second day. Note that the square sides do not have any coatings; but the other sides have a purple coating. Really interesting!

truncated octahedron

This is an example of a truncated octahedron.  The fluorite crystals I found were very close to this, however only a few of the smaller ones were completely euhedral.  The larger ones were about 1/2 of what is shown here.

Large Quartz Crystal

This is the large quartz that was sitting on the bottom of the pocket. Three of the sides were covered in the secondary growth terminating with larger crystals at the top.  It had a small cluster of fluorite on the right side, which was the direction where I was pulling out the fluorite mini-soccer balls.  This was the largest crystal that came out of the pocket although it wasn’t euhedral!  

The pocket didn’t show any signs of stopping, and all of a sudden it was dark.  The nearly full moon was illuminating the ground through the trees.  I was exhausted but needed to fill in the hole.  So I started that tedious process and a little while later realized I was surrounded by coyotes…they must have killed something because they were screeching and barking in all directions!  The whole experience made me think Edgar Allen Poe…the evening ended with the soundtrack of me filling in a large hole by the moonlight…what is going on in them woods after dark?  

So as many of you that pick crystals know; when your into the crystals and have to leave a pocket, you continuously think about the pocket while waiting for your next trip!  I’m no different and since I knew it was going to be a week before I could head back up, I couldn’t help but go through the fantasy scenarios and put together a plan of attack for that next trip.  My plan was to excavate the far end of the pocket I was in day 1, taking out the overburden, widening the hole and pulling out the large crystal that was “stuck” and generally seeing how long that side of the pocket continued.  Then, if I extinguished that side of the pocket, I would dig a new hole on the left side (again see diagram above) and meet up with where I left off after day 2.  This would be less work by minimizing the mucking and centering the next portal along a new section of the pocket!   

I had my plan and was able to take a day off of work a little over a week later.  I decided I’d head up after work and set up camp, do the mucking of the hole and then go to sleep; waking up at the crack of dawn and start plucking crystals on my day off.  Ended up getting a later start then I planned and it was dark by the time I arrived.  I lit the lantern, set up camp, and then started the mucking which took a while.  Of course, my plan was flawed because there is no way I can expose a crystal and not try to remove it!  So I ended up working on the pocket until 2 am when my headlamp batteries started to dim!  I then watched a meteorite shower and hit the sack.

The next morning I went down and continued with that side of the pocket until it pinched out.  I was able to remove several large crystals (seen in the video) and behind these crystals the pocket pinched out.  I hit nothing for the next 1/2 meter so I felt I reached that end of the pocket.  After taking a break I started with phase two of my plan.  I hit the end of my day 2 digs a couple of hours later and was back into the crystals.  Once back into the pocket I was able to pull out a large chunk of fluorite along the side of the pocket (top side in the diagram).  The fluorite came out in many pieces (totaling ~30 cm long, 5 cm tall and 5 cm wide).  This was exciting because the fluorites were continuing to getting bigger the more I went in this direction!  However, that was the last fluorite I found in the pocket.  This large chunk was EXTREMELY brittle and broken up and much of it ended up disintegrating when I tried to rinse it off with water.  

Fluorite

This was part of the large chunk of fluorite–the part that didn’t fully disintegrate when I was washing off the pocket mud!

Quartz Points

These were some of the large crystals I pulled out right before the pocket pinched out on the right side.  The crystal in the center is about 18 cm in diameter, has a lot of healed terminations, and fits perfectly with the other crystal that was found nearby in the pocket (see video)!  These crystals do have damage–as most crystals did in this pocket (hence the pocket’s name)–but still was a thrill to find!

Prospecting hole

The hole after day 3, again back filling (on the right) to minimize the mucking efforts.

As you can see in the picture, it was awkward and difficult to go to the bottom of the pocket with that overburden there, so on day 4 I removed it.  I then spent the remainder of that day taking out the bottom of the pocket and following it further.  This section of the pocket started to change from the consistent topography I was getting used to.  The top of the pocket had less of the softer clevlandite/feldspar than before and was more interlocked quartz and pegmatite.  The number of crystals on the top was significantly less than before; the ones that I found were more euhedral and still coated with secondary growth.  This side seemed to be where the most violence had occurred because there was a lot of damage to most of the crystals.  The clay was also harder and pulling the crystals out without damaging them further made progress considerably slower.  There was no more fluorite found on this side of the pocket. 

Hole

After day #4, I added the wooden dam so I didn’t have to worry about the other side of the hole continuously filling in while I was mucking and working the pocket.  I had started filling the hole before I took this picture, the bottom is another 1/3 meter buried.  

The fifth day ended up being the final day.  I was able to pull out a couple more really nice crystals as the pocket started to dive under a pegmatite rhine.  The crystals below this point were no longer coated with secondary growth and all were intergrown and not fully euhedral.  Many were still large.  Once the pocket started to dive downward, the sides of the pocket were difficult digging and the crystals weren’t the quality to pursue further.  The pocket had finally pinched out!  I decided to throw in the towel and celebrate the amazing crystal pocket I had unearthed!

Excavation

Here are the last crystals I pulled out before it got too uncomfortable to dig and the quality wasn’t worth pursuing any longer. The end of an amazing pocket!

Cleaning these crystals has been a chore.  They had many phases of growth, first the smoky quartz, then a layer of albite, then a layer of iron oxide, then a layer of clear secondary growth quartz, then another layer of iron oxide and clay.  Cleaning these requires a chemical bath and then mechanical cleaning, repeating over and over due to the tremendous amounts of facets that each crystal has.  Because there is a layer of iron oxide under the clear quartz, the crystals are somewhat “spotted” with red and white that can’t be removed from under the clear quartz.  In some instances they beg to be cleaned more, but then you realize that the staining is all under the clear quartz.

The amount of facets are amazing and each piece, regardless of how little or large–they are all unique!  I will probably leave some pieces uncleaned as they will look better that way; while others I’ll spend the winter cleaning.  It takes about 2-3 weeks per batch of crystals to get them clean enough for my liking (several iterations of chemical then mechanical cleaning), so it is a slow and labor intensive process.  But a day playing with crystals is better than a day at work, that’s for sure!  This will add some fun throughout the entire winter!

 

Here is a gallery of some of the crystals and plates that I found.  


Quartz Cluster Quartz Point Quartz Point Fluorite Fluorite Quartz Point Quartz Cluster Quartz Point Quartz Point Quartz Cluster Quartz Point Quartz Point Quartz Point Quartz Point Fluorite Quartz Point Quartz Cluster Quartz Point Quartz Point Quartz Point

Quartz Points

These were some of the large crystals I pulled out right before the pocket pinched out.

Quartz Points Quartz Point Quartz Point Quartz Point Quartz Cluster Quartz Cluster Quartz Point Quartz Plate Quartz Cluster Quartz Point Quartz Cluster Quartz Plate Quartz Cluster Quartz Cluster Microcline Cluster Quartz Cluster Quartz Point Quartz Point

Gem-o-Rama 2016 Road Trip

Road Trip to Gem-O-Rama 2016

As always, click on any image for a much larger HD version, and note all the video is HD so adjust your settings.  The crystals of Gem-O-Rama 2016 are in this separate blog post

My prospecting buddy Kirk suggested we road trip to Gem-O-Rama this year for its 75th anniversary.  I have always wanted to make that event, but for the last several years have not wanted to hassle with coordinating a trip.  Having someone to go with was a game-changer for me, and I was able to take off of work and home life to make this happen.

We decided that camping would be fun and definitely the cheapest route, so we packed up our stuff knowing the days would be warm in the desert and nights would likely be cold.   We also packed up appropriate prospecting equipment.  

Itinerary

Here is the first leg of the trip. California or Bust !!!

We started off the trip with Colorado’s first snow.  As luck would have it, the snow was most intense when we planned to leave, and the drive was a bit dicey until the sun came up!  Our goal was to make it to Valley of the Gods in SW Utah (the actual destination was kept secret…little did I know that Kirk had spent quite a bit of time in the SW and had some amazing routes for us on the road trip!)

slick roads

Roads were very slick west of Denver all the way through South Park. Kenosha Pass was re-opened as we were embarking…we saw why!

After leaving South Park the roads cleared up and we had a pleasant drive.  Kirk had made the longest playlist of cool tunes I think I’ve ever heard; I don’t know if it ever repeated.  We discovered we have many similar interests in synth-based music and I met my match when it comes to 80’s band trivia!  

Utah Roads

Guest lodging

One has to be careful when traveling this area of the country–we narrowly escaped this attack!

Durango Oaks

The aspen were almost done and the oaks were starting to turn.

Valley of the Gods

I love this part of our country!  I had not been to Valley of the Gods, likely because I don’t frequent German travel websites (this must be a popular place for Germans to tour the US because we met a lot of German tourists in this area).  The beauty of the SW Utah desert is world famous!

Valley of the Gods

Two episodes of the BBS program Dr. Who were filmed in Valley of the Gods.  You never know when Daleks would be around the bend…

Valley of the Gods Valley of the Gods Valley of the Gods Valley of the Gods Valley of the Gods Valley of the Gods Valley of the Gods

Moki Dugway

It was getting late in the afternoon and I figured we must be staying in this general area. Kirk told me to find Moki Dugway on the map, I said whaaat?  But eventually I found it on the map as we traversed Moki Dugway, a hidden road along a cliff wall onto the top of the mesa.  Moki Dugway led to a mesa that jets out over the San Juan River and overlooks Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley.  It is one heck of a gorgeous place to camp, that’s for sure!

Moki Dugway

Valley of the Gods

Moki Dugway

This is the view from our campsite at the end of the road that Moki Dugway dropped us on. This is looking east back towards Colorado over Valley of the Gods.

Moki Dugway Sunset

The sunset was beautifully colored as there was a fire burning west of us. It was obvious were were under a major flight corridor as we saw planes throughout the evening and night!

Monument Valley

Our view of Monument Valley to the South, with the smoke plume from the forest fire to our west.

Moki Dugway - Evas Point

The camp on the top of a cliff! It got quite chilly up there that evening!

Moki Dugway Moon

Monument Valley

Moki Dugway

Monument Valley

Monument Valley, with the start of the smoke plume from the forest fire to our west, from Moki Dugway.

Moki Dugway Milky Way

The sky was clear and the stars were awesome. We saw several shooting stars but no satellites, which we both thought was pretty strange given how clear and dark the night’s sky was!

Moki Dugway Milky Way

I did catch a Moki Dugway shooting star (and airplane)!

Moki Dugway

Kirk enjoying breakfast on Friday morning!

Evas Point

Looks like we camped at Eva’s Point, so said the sign affixed to this old tree. I wonder who Eva was and how many times she posted her favorite spots in the desert southwest?

Day #2’s Leg

We woke up, got a bite to eat and then headed out.  We stopped at Goosenecks State Park which Kirk stated the last time he was there it was not a State Park.  We parked and took in the amazing bends of the San Juan River.

Goosenecks State Park

After that we went through Monument Valley and continued through Page, AZ where the Glen Canyon Dam for Lake Powell was located.  

Monument Valley

Page power plant

Page Arizona power plant

Zion National Park

Zion is an amazing place, and the word is out.  In 2015 it was the 6th most visited National Park.  We were a little behind in our itinerary so we didn’t have much time to stop but the views and geology as we drove through were awesome!  

Zion National Park Zion National Park Zion National Park Zion National Park Zion National Park Zion National Park Zion National Park Zion National Park

We continued through the barren landscapes and went through Las Vegas on Friday afternoon at sunset, which is rush hour.  Note to self, take the newly built bypass on the north side on the way home!  South of Vegas heading toward Los Angeles we witnessed a solid line of cars heading the other way into the City of Sin!  Not being a huge fan of Las Vegas, I’d have to admin this was my second best trip there; we went straight through without stopping!  (the best was on the way home when we took the bypass loop and didn’t go through it at all, lol)!

Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles

This was our view from camp at Trona Pinnacles.

Our destination was Trona Pinnacles in the Searles Valley, where we’d camp for two nights while we were picking crystals at Gem-O-Rama during the day.  We got to Trona Pinnacles after dark and the moon was setting as we found a place to camp.  Trona’s landscape consists of around 500 tufa (calcium carbinate) spires making it look like an alien landscape.  Actually, it was just that in the movie Star Trek V: The Final Frontier among many other hollywood blockbusters!  

These tufa features were created long ago (10 to 100 thousand years ago) when calcium carbonate groundwater seeped into the bottom of large inland lakes that were present at that time.  The calcium rich groundwater and the alkaline lake water created these deposits, the lakes drained, and we’re left with the Trona Pinnacles.

Trona Pinnacles

Looking east from camp at some of the pinnacles at the crack of dawn.

Trona Pinnacles

Looking at camp from the base of the pinnacles near us.

Trona Pinnacles

On the top of the pinnacles during pre-dawn looking north towards Trona and the Searles Valley Mineral plants.

Trona Pinnacles

Camp from the top of the pinnacles.

Trona Pinnacles

Campers on the other side of the pinnacles from us.

Trona Pinnacles

Here is a cool time lapse I did from the front door of the tent looking west.  This was a 4+ hour capture using my 14mm f2.8 lens with 330+ open exposure shots.

The 75th Annual Gem-O-Rama 2016

Wow, what an amazing event.  I have detailed this event is a separate blog post.  I will say that the crystal digging was very simple and easy, and the Searles Lake Gem & Mineral Society put on one heck of an extravaganza!  It’s nice for a change being able to drive right to the spot and pick crystals with minimal effort!  It was extremely well organized and very family friendly.  Here is the flyer for 2017, you should think about going!  

Searles Valley

One of the Brine Lakes mined by the Searles Valley Mineral Plant.

The return trip home

We finished with the halite collecting field trip on Sunday around noon and headed home. On the way we visited the ghost town of Rhyolite as we traversed through the 99 degree Death Valley (remember we started our trip at 29 degrees).  We stayed in Mesquite in a stinky motel and progressed through central Utah meeting up with I-70 which from there was a straight shot home.

Rhyolite, Nevada

Gold was discovered in 1904 in the hills around Rhyolite, and in 1905 the town was formally established and platted.  As many of the gold rush towns of western America, the town was in a boom mode and growth was swift. Just several years into the boom of the town, however, several economic events including the San Francisco earthquake squelched the investment in Rhyolite’s mines.  By 1908 Rhyolite’s population was peaking at around 8,000, but the mines were beginning to fail due to lack of investment or lack of production.  By 1910, residents moved as more and more financial hardship hit the town. By 1919, the Post Office was closed.  

What amazes me if that in 15 years the town went from nothing, to nearly 10,000 residents, back to nothing.  Much of the infrastructure of the town was moved to the nearby town of Beatty, so at least resources were re-purposed.  Today Rhyolite is a interesting town of ruins, with the train depot currently being restored.  

Rhyolite Bottle House

Tom Kelly built his bottle house in 1906 and then raffled it off. Note that the bottles do not show inside the house; the only light is from the traditional windows.

Rhyolite Bottle House

Recycling bottles did exist!

Rhyolite

One of the iron doors of the jail house built in 1907.  

Rhyolite

The Porter Brothers’ store was erected in 1906. They sold everything from food to automobiles!

Rhyolite

Cook Bank. Built in 1908 for $90,000. It was the tallest building in town, 3 stories plus basement. The vaults were in the center and the 2nd and 3rd floors were business offices.

Rhyolite

This building was state of the art having steam heating, electric lights and marble floors.

Rhyolite

Porter Brothers’ building, with dust trail from approaching vehicle!

Rhyolite

The Las Vegas & Tonopah Depot, erected in 1909.

Rhyolite Rhyolite Rhyolite

Rhyolite

Rhyolite

Sign advertising Rhyolite station, with “Rhyolite Ghost Casino” painted on top.

Rhyolite

Looking into the front of the Jail

Rhyolite

Nevada Sunsets

Beatty

The irony here is terribly funny. This is “The Dream” resort in Beatty, NV. They must have run out of funding after they got the sign up, because the sign is all that exists of this resort.

Nevada Sunsets

Sunset on Sunday night in the middle of nowhere!

Mesquite

Sunrise in Mesquite

Utah

Some of the landscape as we progressed through Utah.

Utah

Utah