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


April Fools Claim Rockhounding trip — June 3, 2011

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

Cool phantom Smoky quartz with clear quartz

The largest Fluorite of the day was beautiful!

Fluorites including nice blue/green large one

Small Fluorite, love the purple corners!

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CSMS Field Trip: Joe Dorris’ Topaz Mine 2010

Topaz Gem Mine 2010
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.
Dave Sifting through the dirt
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!
Excavator at work
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!
Beautiful Topaz Joe's team found
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!
Dad’s stash!
Dad's Topaz
My findings!
Dave's Topaz

April Fools Claim May 15 2010

Went with my dad and my son to the CSMS April Fools claim today. Started off with snow on the ground. Drove around the area for a while looking for the proper Claim Posts; in searching through them we found a couple smokeys in the gravel of the road. Pretty cool and good eyes by Dad and Hutner. Did some pretty serious hills too; Hunter was questioning if the hills were drivable…I figured since there was a road then it was!

W started by looking around at other holes and piles. Right away found some small Amazonite crystals. My dad found a nice clear Fluorite; the first I’ve seen pulled from the ground! Found some nice smaller plates with white quartz and purple flourite cubes and cube-octo-hedronds? Cool shapes! Started to dig and got a descent hold but I still have no confidence in knowing what I’m looking for. I’ve had success at Devilshead when digging to look for larger rock at the root rock layer just under the surface. Also look for increased mica in the dirt/rock. I figured I needed to dig around that layer and taking from some of the other pits I guessed at a good depth to go to. I dug aligned with a nice vug that someone found, about 20-30 feet away along the hill. After a couple of hours, we all decided to walk around and given it was after a couple big snows and see if we could learn more and also check the dumps for leftovers.

Nice plate we found with Quartz & Fluorite

We had a great day, and garage door to pit it was about 2 hours from home. Nice! Devilshead is about 1 hour 15 minutes including the hike, so nice having a couple hot spots so close! We can’t wait for the July fieldtrip so we can peek at how the experts do it and hopefully have a higher probability of success!

Closeup of beautiful purple Fluorite

Another piece with some nice double terminated quartz.

North Table Mountain Zeolites Field Trip

On Saturday April 17th, 2010 the whole family, along with my dad, went on a hike to North Table Mountain open space in search of Zeolites along with the Flatirons Mineral Club, led and special thanks goes out to Dennis Gertenbach for his organizing this trip.  I had done some reading on what to expect but this was my first hard-rock pounding experience.

We did the 3/4 mile trail and ascended 700 feet up to the Southeastern Quarry.  We overlooked both buildings that I worked at Coors so many years ago so the mountain was definitely familiar; but I had no idea that you could hike on this land (I thought it was private still) and had no clue what I could have been doing during lunch each day!  Once we got up to the Quarry, I immediately noticed the nice bricks that were piled up on the front of the hill and was amazed that folks could actually somehow carve out those shapes from the boulders that were all around.  I would love to know more about how folks do this.

Immediately we started to see crystals in the rocks and it didn’t take long to find what we were after.  Hunter and Daphne started finding rocks right away with cool crystals; and my dad continued with the luck of the Irish and immediately found a large boulder with several exposed vugs that he started working.

Later in the morning my dad was pounding away at his large boulder at a crack he found and ended up splitting the boulder and exposing a new vug.  Inside was some amazing Thomsonite, Chabazite and Analcime crystals.  There also was an interesting black crystal that we still have not identified.  I ended up finding some cool crystals but eventually started to work on the nice pieces my dad was pulling off of the boulder.  There was no way we could carry the big pieces down so I started to work on downsizing into more manageable sized pieces.

After a couple of hours it started to rain and we decided to head down and have lunch.  We ended up with some great crystals and this is a spot I definitely want to go back to in the future!  With a larger sledgehammer next time!

Here was the nice piece that came from the vug my dad found.  Thomsonite, Chabazite and Analcime.

Here is an Analcime crystal.

Here is some more Analcime crystals as part of a vug.

Some Thomsonite on Analcime.

Here is the vug that my dad broke into.

And the other side of the small vug…

Several folks have asked me how to get to this Quarry.  It is on Jefferson County open space which has different rules for Rockhounding than BLM or National Forest, so do your research first.  When I went with this club they had obtained special permission through the County to rockhound in the area.  If you read the link I’ve provided, you will see that you need a permit to collect:


C.7. Collection of Natural Resources

It shall be unlawful to take, collect, gather, or possess any animal, vegetation, rock, wood or any other object on Open Space lands.

Fine: $100.00

NOTE:  This area is riddled with Rattlesnakes!  BE CAREFUL!  This was just a baby snake, but they are just as poisonous, and like all other young animals they tend to be a little more unpredictable!

Rattlesnake in the trail on North Table Mountain

Rattlesnake in the trail on North Table Mountain

Where I’ve always parked in on Easley Road off of West 44th Avenue.  I’ve gotten onto West 44th from Hwy 58 (Golden Fwy) to McIntyre to 44th.  You will pass the Colorado Railroad Museum (which is worth a stop) on your way.  You’ll walk west along the on ramp to Hwy 58 and then hop on the trail marked with the arrow, you’ll see it on your right.

Parking area for North Table Mountain Quarry trailhead

Parking area for North Table Mountain Quarry trailhead on Easley Road

You will see the trailhead in the above map; you walk West up the hill until you run into the North Table Loop.  When you intersect with this trail you will double back and head East.  This will take you right to the Quarry.  Have fun, be safe, and ensure you have permission to Rockhound by calling the Jefferson County offices.

Directions to North Table Mountain Quarry

Directions to North Table Mountain Quarry

And note, it gets VERY HOT and windy up here.  When I’ve done the hike it is in April or May.  Take a lot of water and drink it!  It’s definitely a hike and the wind will dry you out too!