July Rockhounding

July was a good month for Rockhounding for us; we did only a couple of trips, however, due to a busy summer with many other fun things on the weekends!  Both of my July trips were to Joe Dorris claims; the first was a makeup trip to the Topaz Mountain Gem Mine (originally with the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society, but with the Littleton club on this make up day) and the second was the famous Smokey Hawk claim with CSMS.  Both were in the Lake George area.  If you are interested in visiting either claim, contact Joe or Krystle.  Here is information on Visting the Topaz Mine.

The Smokey Hawk trip was a lot of fun; I found a bunch of small chips of really great colored Amazonite.  Joe stated that they had just opened a small pocket of incredible colored Amazonite but most of it was crushed.  He was thinking chemistry must have played a role in the color and condition of the Amazonite.  Perhaps we’ll see more in this year’s Prospector’s show.

I had recently tumbled some Amazonite chips I found in prior trips to the Smokey Hawk, so I decided to hit the tailings pile and see what I could find in the “trash” mounds.  Others went up to the hills and did some prospecting, and some did quite well (see Kevin’s Rockhounding blog).  I dug through rocks at the base of the piles (the stones tend to roll down to the bottom) and also walked around the piles themselves.  Although I didn’t find anything super spectacular from an Amazonite perspective, I did find many really dark blue/green colored chips, many with a face or two intact.  I also found a couple of larger chunks.

Dark rich colored Amazonite from the Smokey Hawk claim

Dark rich colored Amazonite from the Smokey Hawk claim

I was able to find a couple of nice Smokey Quartz crystals as well.  Most had a small flaw or two (mostly small chips).  I did find this Goethite crystal.  I’ve seen these in pictures with Amazonite/smokey quartz clusters.  I think these are great crystals; always funky but definitely pronounced crystal structure!  I’ve found 4 or 5 like this over the years; this one is one of the best!

Goethite crystal

Limonite after Stibenite crystal

The find of the day, however, came near the end of the day as a thunderstorm was encroaching on our fun!  I was digging in the tailings pile where there were some small funky Smokey Quartz clusters that a fellow club member turned me onto.  There was a small pocket embedded in an excavator bucket load that had some interesting items in the pocket mud/clay.  After rinsing when I got home, most ended up being pink microcline clusters, but one was a awesome gemmy Fluorite.  In the tailings nearby was also this small Fluorite cluster!

Back of gemmy Fluorite

Back of gemmy Fluorite

The back side of this was interesting as it appeared to be somewhat etched away from an original growth/phantom.  The color and gemminess of the stone is wonderful!

Gemmy Fluorite - a couple of fractures but clear and purple!

Gemmy Fluorite – a couple of fractures but clear and purple!

Near this I also found a small Fluorite cluster; what was interesting is the shape of the central crystal in this cluster…I will need to talk to an expert as this doesn’t appear to be normal shape for Fluorite.

Small Fluorite cluster

Small Fluorite cluster

In late July I took the kids to visit Krystle and the Topaz Mountain Gem mine.  Luckily it had a good rain in the days before the trip and we had significant luck just surface hunting.  As a matter of fact, only a couple small pieces came from our hard work digging all day!  My find of the day came as I was walking into the mine.  Along the entry road was a eroded area from the rains that had this awesome blue topaz stone just laying there on the surface, on a pedestal of dirt that was about to collapse due to erosion…just waiting for me to pluck it from the ground.  This picture doesn’t do it justice because it is very clear and you can mainly see the back side through the stone; but it is awesome to hold and stare into, and beautiful blue!

Alluvial Blue Topaz - 80 carat

Alluvial Blue Topaz – 80 carat

I wandered around with the kids but their eyes just weren’t finding the shapes and glass within the mud.  I pulled out several small chips and a few small stones; most were not cutters or specimens; but it was good that I was finding Topaz!  I dug for 5-6 hours in one of the piles left by the excavator and found only a super small chip and sherry stone which could cut into a 1-2 carat faceted stone…not sure if I want to do that or not…

Hunter and Daphne had a system figured out which was great.  Hunter was digging a hole in the top of the pile to create a volcano.  As he excavated dirt from that hole he slid it down a chute where Daphne was going through the dirt looking for Topaz.  Seemed like an efficient system; and they were making a volcano that later in the day was going to spit out Topaz all over for us to collect!  Unfortunately they didn’t find any Topaz with their system, but Hunter did find a really nice Smokey Quartz!

Hunter digging for Topaz while making a Volcano

 

Daphne sifting through the volcano core's dirt...

Daphne sifting through the volcano core’s dirt…

 

Hunter’s smokey with Topaz at the Sherry stone and blue to show the colorsOther than the Sherry this was the only other stone I found digging

The smokey was very dirty and we didn’t know until we got home that it had some topaz on it; so Hunter and Daphne were both really bummed they didn’t score a Topaz today. I told them both to just do what was the most successful and wander around and look for them on the ground. Daphne was done but Hunter decided to take my advice. A little while later he came running towards us; I knew he must have found something! He did; an awesome Topaz! All in all, it was a great day at the topaz mine.

Here are some of the other stones that I found.

Sherry stone and blue to show the colors

Sherry stone and blue to show the colors

On the way to the mine I purchased a vintage Synthesizer from a family in Florissant.  When I told her where we were going for the day; she stated she lived right in the area of the mine for many years.  She told me a story that the original homesteader Matakat used to grow potatoes on the land and often found topaz in them when harvesting!  Great lore for the area!

Other than the Sherry this was the only other stone I found digging

Another shot of Hunter's topaz

Another shot of Hunter’s topaz

 

I am looking forward to the rest of the summer and fall as I have many trips planned, including several locales that I have not been to before!  Stay tuned…

May 2013: Goethite and Onegite

May was a fun month for rock hounding adventures.  I visited the Lake George area several times in May, the first was to prospect and find the claim borders / corner posts, I went with my son and his friend.  We had a fun hike and I found a couple of spots that looked interesting.  I then came back and the first rock I turned over had a small spray of Goethite on it.  I have never found Goethite before and so I was pretty excited.  Ended up digging at this location for two days and pulled out a lot of Goethite and related Onegite sprays, some combo pieces, and many Smokey Quartz crystals and small microcline clusters.  No amazonite, however, but that is okay as I had a wonderful time with what I did find.

Looking at these sprays under a loupe I discovered that there are small citrine, smoky and amethyst quartz crystals all over these things.  I guess that is by definition the Onegite — Goethite with these small crystals.  I read online on how to clean these and have soaked them in soapy water for days and then used water spray to avoid breaking the delicate crystals.  On some of the onegite I was able to use a soft toothbrush.  They didn’t clean up 100% yet; I don’t know if some ever will.  Note you can’t put them in Iron Out since this is an iron based mineral.

I will post some of the microcline and smoky quartz in a different post when I have them ready; but here is a slideshow of some of the pieces that I found.  What a cool mineral!

tn_Goethite-1489

Amethyst, onegite and goethite

tn_Goethite-1462

Some amethyst in this onegite/goethite crystal

tn_Goethite-1419

This one is great!

tn_Goethite-1496 tn_Goethite-1493 tn_Goethite-1486 tn_Goethite-1474 tn_Goethite-1472 tn_Goethite-1470 tn_Goethite-1458 tn_Goethite-1456 tn_Goethite-1450 tn_Goethite-1449 tn_Goethite-1445 tn_Goethite-1430 tn_Goethite-1428 tn_Goethite-1425 tn_Goethite-1410 tn_Goethite-1406 tn_Goethite-1390 tn_Goethite-1386

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July 14 – The famous Smoky Hawk Mine

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

 

Devilshead Rockhounding – September 2011

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

Devilshead September 25, 2011

Devilshead smokeys

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

July 9th Smoky Hawk Claim trip with Fort Collins Rockhounds club

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