Digging float quartz crystals

Was able to break away from work so I took a vacation day and went up to Devil’s Head digging this last Friday.  Been rough to get up there this year due to a busy schedule, but it was nice to be back out in the forest again.

I had a plan for this day–which I had been pondering upon over the last month while planning this trip.  First thing I wanted to prospect an area that I remember looking promising a couple of years ago and if that didn’t pan out I wanted to dig some float on a very old dig I found that seemed pretty productive to the original prospector.  If I got skunked with both parts of the plan I had a third option that was within a mile.

I stopped several times during my prospecting and checked out what looked to be good ground in many places.  There was peg showing on the surface–both quartz, feldspar and combos–but the quartz was very striated, fractured and had no flat faces at all.  I found many places along this steep hillside with the same situation, even though there was a lot of “good looking” signs on the surface.  I ended up finding one rough point about the diameter of a nickel in one spot, but nothing otherwise.  The hill was *very* steep and after nearly 4 hours I got tired of all the climbing and precarious hiking so I decided to give up on that area.

Stash of crystals I brought home from today's "float dig"

Stash of crystals I brought home from today’s “float dig”, all rinsed with water, none cleaned in chemical yet.

My second stop was about 1/2 mile away and was a old dig that someone obviously had success with as they had excavated a trench about 50 foot in length as they followed the pegmatite dike across the hillside.  I could tell the dig was really old because the trench had naturally filled in most of the way and was looking pretty filled in.  I believe this is why the Forest Service is okay with leaving holes unreclaimed as over time they naturally fill back in, although I still believe to fill in my holes as it takes a long time for nature to do it; and holes are simply an eyesore in our forest and potentially dangerous to animals!

My goal at this location was to see if I could find float or perpendicular seams coming out of the peg with some nice sized crystals (given the dig was fairly large). In other spots I have found my best crystals not in or under the pegmatite dike but rather coming out perpendicular to it in many spots in smaller peg seams. I also figured as I got into the old diggings I could possible see what the person was into–I always like to analyze others’ digs as this is a primary way I learn!

I started digging about 4-6 feet downhill of the old trench about 2-4 feet wide and a couple of feet deep.  It was hard to tell if I was just digging in tailings or actual virgin ground below the trench, but soon I started finding crystal parts which narrowed my focus.  Quickly I zoned in upon a small seam with microcline and smoky quartz crystals.  Some were nice and I kept them; but most were only partially euhedral which was a sign of a smaller, tighter seam–even though some of the crystal parts were 5-7 inches long!

The crystals were organized to make me think this was not float (i.e. eroded crystals that eroded and rolled downhill from the pocket) as evidence of microcline and crystals next to each other and some red stained dirt.  They definitely were in loose dirt and not harder rock.  I followed this seam at a angle of about 30 degrees from straight downhill (I was on a very steep hill) for about 25-30 feet until it disappeared.  The further downhill I went the smaller the crystals shards were, the less smoky in color and less frequent.  The last 20 feet or so didn’t have anything worth keeping.

A nice euhedral microcline (right), microcline with mica, triple quartz cluster and double terminated smoky quartz

A nice euhedral microcline (right), microcline with mica, triple quartz cluster and double terminated smoky quartz were some of the nicer finds of the day.

As I made my way into the old trench from below I started hitting larger masses of pegmatite (like three feet deep), this was the original peg that the prospector followed across the hillside.  The digger left many crystals along the bottom of that seam and had obviously found a crack in the peg that had crystals, which is where I often also find my crystals.  The unfortunate thing was that the digger obviously used metal tools in this seam and most of the crystals he left attached to the bottom of that seam were damaged on their points.  Obviously the digger was finding nice crystals because they didn’t care about the nice 2-3 inch ones they were damaging all along the bottom of the small pocket/seam.  Moral of that story, don’t use metal tools in your pockets and take your time, unless you don’t care about the “little guys”!

Nice sized crystals with damage due to carelessness of the previous digger using metal tools in the pocket.

Nice sized crystals with damage due to carelessness of the previous digger using metal tools in the pocket.  You can guage the size by the soda can ring on the old table.

I dug until the sun was setting (beautiful sunset) and it started to sprinkle, since I had a heck of a hike (about a mile with some steep hills) back to the car I didn’t want to wait and have it get dark.  As always, had a blast being out in the forest prospecting and was able to prove that–whether it is float or a perpendicular seam–there are sometimes crystals left behind by other prospectors and available if you put in the work from previous digs.  This is definitely easier than prospecting good ground signs and striking into virgin ground, which likely will improve the chances of finding crystals quickly?

Smoky Quartz

Interesting growth pattern on this smoky quartz

Obliq Museum: Roland HS-60 (Juno 106)

I purchased a Roland HS-60 Synthesizer a little while ago and am currently integrating it into my home studio.  One thing I noticed was the front panel interface is the EXACT same as the Roland Juno 106 (it is the same synthesizer after all) and there was no way to mute the internal speakers based on the front or back panel controls.

Roland HS-60 Synthesizer

I ended up reading the manual and buried in there was the answer.  Seems like this could have been a little more obvious, but now that I know you have to plug in a cable to the headphone jack to turn off the speakers I am good to go.

Turn off Roland HS-60 Internal Speakers

From the Roland HS-60 Manual, here is the trick to turning off the internal speakers. Note that the Juno 106 does not have this speaker option.

Read more about the HS-60 from my original posting.  The original owner’s manual is located here.

Rockhound’s Guide to Identifying Federal Mining Claims

Federal Mining Claims are granted to US Citizens for the purpose of extracting the minerals for commercial gain.  Rockhounding does not require a mining claim, however Rockhounds cannot mineral trespass on active mining claims.

The BLM’s Guide to Rockhounding is helpful for defining the general rules and responsibilities for Rockhounding.  The BLM’s Guide to Mining Claims defines the claim owner’s responsibility to clearly mark their claim so that Rockhounds have the ability to know where they can dig.  As part of maintaining a claim, the claim owner has to agree to erect corner posts/markings on the claim site:

The undersigned testifies all monuments required by law were erected upon the subject claim(s), and all notices required by law were posted on the subject claim(s) or copies thereof were in place, and at said date, each corner monument bore or contained markings sufficient to appropriately designate the corner of the claim to which it pertains and the name of the claim(s).

Note that a mining claim only grants mineral rights to the claim owner, it still is public land and unless there are dangers (which will be clearly marked) citizens still can use our land.

In my prospecting I have seen several types of markings for Federal Mining Claims.  As a rockhound I appreciate when the claim owner posts documentation on each of the corner posts with GPS coordinates so I can quickly identify the claim boundaries in my GPS unit.  I appreciate when on the road into the claim or near pits/digs there is an obvious posting on a tree stating that the area is claimed.  I’ve seen center/side posts erected which is helpful too!  The easier the claim owner makes it to let the Rockhound know where the claim is the easier it is to not have accidents.

Corner post including paperwork on this federal mining claim

Corner post including paperwork on this federal mining claim

That said, I know that many times claim markers are tampered with, sometimes completely removed.  I have talked with many claim owners that have to deal with marking their claims over and over again because the markers are removed or vandalized.  Thus, I have learned how to do a little extra research before I head out to help me know when there are claims in the area that I will be prospecting.

When prospecting an area I always look for claim markers and signs, and if I find a place I want to get serious about digging I typically pull off the pack and take a walk around looking for corner posts in one direction.  A little internet research ahead of time will also help in knowing how much hiking I want to do to ensure I’m not on a claim.

The BLM provides Federal Mining Claim information online for free at LR 2000 website. If you look at the BLM Mining Claim packet, and their online help, they recommend to use the Pub MC (Mining Claim) Geo Report.  This report requires that you know a little bit about the area you want to search, specifically the MTR or Meridian Township Range, the Administration State, and the Case Disposition (Active, Closed, etc).  So as an example, I will show how I would identify active claims at one of my favorite areas in Colorado, Devils Head.

For this example, I already know the Administration State (Colorado) and Case Disposition (Active), but I need to find the MTR(s) that I want to research.  I do this by visiting another BLM site GeoCommunicator.  From the menu on the left side of the webpage I choose Interactive Maps and then All Layers.  A map displays allowing me to drill into the area I am interested in.  I then use the toolbar to choose the Identify option.

After zooming in, I choose the Identify icon in the toolbar

After zooming in, I choose the Identify icon in the toolbar

Then I click on the map to identify the Township where I’m interested in.  You can click the checkbox in the information box and it will outline the entire township visually.

Clicking somewhere on the map places the marker, then I check the Township box to show the township where you are researching federal mining claims

Clicking somewhere on the map places the marker, then I check the Township box to show the township where you are researching federal mining claims

I then repeat for as many townships as I want to research in the LR2000 database.

I continue to identify spots and check its Township until I have all the areas I want to research for federal mining claims

I continue to identify spots and check its Township until I have all the areas I want to research for federal mining claims

 Now I have 6 townships that I want to research identified.  The format is (for example the lower left):

  • State:  CO
  • Meridian:  06
  • Township:  10 South
  • Range:  69 West

Now I can enter the required fields in the Pub MC Geo Report on the LR 2000 website. The first thing I do on the LR2000 Reporting website is to select the criteria I want to use.  Obviously you don’t get a choice with State and Case Disposition, but for the other required field I choose MTR (Meridian, Township & Range) and then click the Select Criteria button.

I choose the MTR option for reporting, which is the most general requirement for researching federal mining claims database

I choose the MTR option for reporting, which is the most general requirement for researching federal mining claims database

Click the Set button to set each of the criteria.  For the MTR, you use the drop-down to select Meridian (06 – 6th PM) and then enter your Township (plus direction from the list) and Range (plus the direction from the list) and click the Add to MTR List button.  Do this for each of the MTRs you want to research, in my case I chose all six I found on the GeoCommunicator site.  NOTE, if you want to select multiple dispositions (for example, active and closed, hold the CTRL key and click all the options you want).

Select the state (CO) and disposition (ACTIVE) and then use the tool to add the MTRs

Select the state (CO) and disposition (ACTIVE) and then use the tool to add the MTRs

Now it is time to run the report by clicking the Run Report button.  I have noticed you may have to click it again if the pop-up window does not show up.  NOTE that this site uses pop-ups, so ensure that your pop-up blocker doesn’t suppress the report output window!!!  You will see a pop up with all your selected criteria and then another window will appear with all the claims in the area.

Ensure all values are uppercase, and click ok to run the report against the BLM's Oracle/Hyperion database.

Ensure all values are uppercase, and click ok to run the report against the BLM’s Oracle/Hyperion database.

The output doesn’t tell you the GPS coordinates of the claim, but it will tell you the Section and Subdivision along with the claim’s details including MTRS, name, serial number and information about the claim holder.  If you refer back to the GeoCommunicator website, the identify information “window” will let you drill into detailed information that will say what Section (the ‘S’ in MTRS) your identified point is in.

Pressing the Identify link (highlighted) will take you to more detail on this location.

Pressing the Identify link (highlighted) will take you to more detail on this location.

Click on the PLSS tab to see the section (the 'S' in MTRS) that your location is on.

Click on the PLSS tab to see the section (the ‘S’ in MTRS) that your location is on, in this example section is 029.  You will see this in the LR2000 database (if recorded) to know if your location on the map is in the same section as the claim.

As far as I have found, this is as detailed as you can get, but it will get you in the ballpark of where the claim(s) exists; and then you can visit the area in person and identify the claim by the corner posts that should clearly identify the claim name and which corner post you are looking at.

Please comment if you have other useful ways to identify federal mining claims.  Happy Rockhounding!