Chase: Lamar Hailstorm May 18, 2018

Mammatus Clouds over Lamar Colorado

Mammatus Clouds over Lamar Colorado

Friday May 18th was forecast to have thunderstorms form along the front range and then float onto the plains with severe potential.  There was a surface low in SE Colorado which was bringing moisture into the NE part of the state.  So I decided to target Limon as there are a lot of options from that central point in Colorado, and I decided to leave early in case the storms fired earlier in the afternoon.

I was in Limon about 12:30pm and already storms were firing in Colorado Springs and Monument.  Another was close to Cañon City and all three were severe warned early in their lifecycle.  The rest of the state, however, was without any kind of convective activity.  It was cloudy and they hadn’t burnt off yet, I could see the clouds were moving west so good low level moisture in the upflow.  The wind shear strong but lacked a good middle layer component, especially in Northern Colorado; and given the steep lapse rates I was expecting mainly a hail threat in the SE part of the state.

Sitting on hwy 287 I chose my next target to be the southern part of the state so I started to head SE.  For those that know this road, the town of Hugo has a couple of miles of 30 mph highway and of course they were enforcing with two Marshalls and had two folks pulled over.  Not sure why Marshalls are serving that community rather than a local police or county sheriff.  By the time I got to highway 94 the storms were still not firing so I decided to take a detour and check out Aroya ghost town, which has been on my bucket list.  See this post for some photos and history.

Finally there were storms initiating off of the Raton Divide heading NE.  I targeted these hoping that they would potentially turn supercellular and have some nice structure.  At this time the NWS issued a tornado watch for the entire southern part of the state, which reinforced that I chose the best area.  I figured by the time I got to Lamar I’d have many directional choices and the storms would be in the vicinity too.

Shelf on the middle cell of the cluster approaching Lamar

Taken in Lamar, a shelf on the middle cell of the cluster approaching Lamar

Lowering bearing down on Lamar Colorado

Lowering bearing down on Lamar Colorado

There were many storms that were still getting organized and I figured they would either developing into one large supercell, or more likely line up into a bow echo.  I left Lamar and headed east so I could be in front of the storm.  The southern part of the storm looked the best early on, but was weakening (visually and on radar) so I decided to chase in front of the storm about 10 miles north giving me some options depending on how the situation continued to develop.

Shelf Cloud expanding east of Lamar Colorado

Shelf cloud expanding east of Lamar Colorado, this was the center of the storm–there was new development to the north and the cell to the south merged with this.

Lowering west of Lamar

Lowering west of Lamar, I watched for a while and there was no rotation, just scud.

Shelf cloud NE of Lamar

Shelf cloud NE of Lamar, looking south at the now merged cells

Hailstorm NE of Lamar Colorado

Hailstorm NE of Lamar Colorado, this is looking directly west; the northern part of the storm continued to develop; an interesting part was in the center and still on the south side of the now line of storms; I continued east in the center having it chase me.

It was fun trying to stay directly under the shelf; didn’t want to get too far under the storm as it was severe warned for half-dollar sized hail and 70-mph wind; but getting out of the car and admiring the structure of this storm got me under the shelf; and this would be the last I would be in front of the storm for the evening as it was quickly overtaking me because I was parked watching the storm.

Shelf could on the south side of the storm

Shelf could on the south side of the storm

Once the rain and hail would start, I would jet forward another several miles.  The storm was heading mostly east so I was still in good position to head south to get out of the way if necessary.  North of my location the storm formed an obvious bowed front and my guess is it would be severe due to wind and hail.  Radar showed the bow front clearly.  The plan at this point was to just let it drift north and east and eventually I’d head south, watch it pass and head east, and then start to head back home and hopefully catch some good lightning.  Going into Kansas after dark is a commitment especially in the SE part of the state since it is a long drive home.

The storm as it almost overtakes me!

The storm as it almost overtakes me!

Cool shot of the front shelf

Cool shot of the front shelf cloud as the inflow turns into outflow (hail and rain!)

I found a good paved road NE of Granada and decided it would be a good road to continue with my chase plan, so I headed south.  The southern section of the storm didn’t look as fierce as it once had but the cloud structure was really cool and colorful!

Cool formation on the southern end of the storm.

Cool formation on the southern end of the storm.

Winter wheat was in full green!

Winter wheat was in full green!

This part of the storm went on to produce 2 tornadoes about 45 minutes after this in SW Kansas

This part of the storm went on to produce 2 tornadoes about 45 minutes after this in SW Kansas

Great funky clouds

Great funky clouds

Santa Fe trail crossing

Santa Fe trail crossing

Getting south of the storm I was expecting to see the updraft along the back side, which was cool but the cooler part was the mammatus clouds forming in the back side of the anvil. At this time the radar showed the line of storms and a tornado warning on the part of the storm I was on; with the surface low showing at the north end of the line.

Line of storms showing the surface low and tornado warning in SW Kansas

Line of storms showing the surface low and tornado warning in SW Kansas.  I’m sure the bow front of the northern side of the line has some great structure as it approached!

Mammatus clouds following the storm

Mammatus clouds following the storm

Mammatus at dusk

Mammatus at dusk

The storms that initially fired over Colorado Springs and Monument were still active and so I headed back north to try and catch them for some lightning photos; but by the time I got back to near Limon most had dissipated and the action was all east in Kansas.  So I put on some good tunes and called it a night.  Between Limon and Kiowa there was standing hail on the side of the road so I stopped to check the size; it was all pea sized and nothing larger, but a good inch on the ground causing it to get foggy.

Overall, 440 miles and 14 hours.  A great first chase of the year!

Aroya, a Colorado ghost town

I first discovered the ghost town of Aroya Colorado while spotting storms, but I was unable to explore due to a tornadic supercell bearing down on us, so I chalked this up to investigate the next time “I was in town”.  I was again chasing but the storms were not firing, so I decided to stop by and check out this old ghost town.  During my initial drive by I only noticed the school building from the road and I thought the town was a farmstead; I didn’t realize there was a abandoned townsite to explore!

Map - Town of Aroya

Town of Aroya

Aroya Colorado was founded in 1866 by Joseph O. Dostal who was a Bohemian Immigrant (I had to look up Bohemia, which was a country about where modern Czech Republic is).  Like everyone coming to Colorado in those days, his dream was to open a meat house in a mining community, but he ended up homesteading a ranch on the Colorado plains (which is still in operation today, two cowboys were on horse herding cattle when I stopped by).  By the early 1900s the town was thriving including a train depot (this was a watering station for the Kansas-Pacific Railroad), blacksmith, feed store, lumber yard, hotel, school, bunk house and many homes.

The demise of the town occurred due to common changes impacting many homesteaded pioneer towns, the state highway bypassing town and the train company having better days.

William Smith's General Merchantile, Aroya Colorado

William Smith’s General Merchantile, Aroya Colorado.  This was on the corner of the county road and main street of town.

Home of Owen "Red" Moreland, built on the foundation of the old Aroya hotel

Home of Owen “Red” Moreland, sone of Ben Moreland who ran the gas station.  This home was built on the foundation of the old Aroya hotel.  Red was an artist and a statue he welded together is at the museum in nearby Kit Carson.

Ben Moreland's Aroya filling station

Ben Moreland’s Aroya filling station

Aroya's second Schoolhouse, 1919

Aroya’s second Schoolhouse, circa 1919

Aroya's second Schoolhouse, 1919

Aroya’s second Schoolhouse, 99 years old!

Aryoa TV Antenna

Television was likely hard to get in Aroya, or were these alien beacons?

Windmill turned Antenna

Windmill turned Antenna

Aroya General Mercantile stuff

Aroya General Mercantile stuff

Aroya Main Street attraction...

Aroya Main Street attraction…or detraction.  An old doll hung out for the elements!

Aroya Main Street attraction...

Aroya Main Street attraction…

Aroya abandoned home

Aroya abandoned home

Aroya abandoned home

Aroya abandoned home

Aroya outbuilding

Aroya outbuilding

Barbed Wire

Barbed Wire

Motor on fence post

Motor on fence post

Aroya's portal into another dimension

Aroya’s portal, one of Colorado’s only portals into another dimension

May 8, 2017 West Denver Hailstorm

Denver and the entire Eastern part of the state was under the gun for potential severe weather on Monday afternoon; the first severe day of the year.  There was a tornado warned storm around Agate on the Palmer Divide and the radar definitely showed a couplet, but only sustained funnels were reported by chasers on the ground.  The main threat was hail; big hail and lots of hail, and straight line winds.

I went out east of Denver to start, took a conference call for work while I was watching the major hailstorm wreck havoc over Denver.  After my call, I headed east until I eventually punched through the line of cells and was able to see the storms on the east side.  Watched several cells get close and then headed home.  Although there was a lot of lightning, I was nearly to Kansas and will wait until another day to catch the nighttime action closer to home!

Denver hailstorm May 8, 2017

May 8th, 2017 Denver Hailstorm taken just east of DIA.

Sitting at DIA looking west was the damaging hailstorm, looking east was this smaller storm cell.

Denver hailstorm

Planes were landing, must have been an incredible view from the left window seats!

Scud cloud that looked suspicious.

Hailstorm

Love the colors at deep dusk. This is near Cope as the hail core of this storm was merely a cornfield away! Note the in-cloud lightning.

Great cloud structure and some in-cloud lightning

Love the rain and clouds!

Cloud to Ground lightning inside the rain, barely visible. The storm was looking pretty evil and I took off after this picture.

Douglas County Libraries Colorado State of Mind

 Colorado State of Mind

Last weekend I had the opportunity to participate in the Colorado State of MInd event sponsored by the Castle Rock branch of the Douglas County Libraries.  A friend works there and asked if I could present the rocks and crystals I have found in the state.  Sounded like a ton of fun, literally!

Colorado state of mind rockhound booth

My bland booth, chock full of rocks

I worked the entire event, 5 hours, talking to very interesting adults and super cool (and many times very intelligent!) kiddos on crystals and rocks.  Everyone could pick up the crystals and experience their beauty and geometry up close.  I really enjoyed seeing the excitement of the kids faces as they explored the beautiful rocks, and enjoyed meeting like minded folks.  I think many people were amazed of the cool gems that lay underground in literally our back yards!

Dave and library patron Carl Degolier. Kindly used with permission from DCL.

I talked about some useful information, so I thought I’d include that information here for reference…

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

Late Night Lightning

Been awhile since I have experienced late night lightning, but I was awake and in luck tonight, Aug 28th, 2016.  We had taken a trip to the Arkansas River valley in southern Colorado to buy Pueblo peppers and visit the state fair where my kids had participated at the State level in 4-H earlier in the week.  After a fun but long day we came home and I started peeling the skins off of our many bushels of peppers; this usually goes well into the night!  Just as I was finishing bushel #1, there were flashes in the sky; at first I thought it was a car going by but to my delight a storm was passing by to our south.

The insects were having a symphony in the front yard and the only man-made noise was a train passing by a 1/2 mile or so away (lots of squeaks and metal on metal scrapes) so I recorded some of the ambience while enjoying it.  Meanwhile the lightning was becoming more frequent, so i jumped in the car and headed for vistas out of the trees.  I ended up driving about 5 miles south of Larkspur and sat on top of a hill overlooking the Spruce Meadows Open Space at Greenland and watched the show.

I enjoy taking pictures of lightning with power lines, and these were carrying a lot of electricity so I figured it would be perfect foreground for lightning shots.  Given it was raining and the lightning was fairly close, I decided to shoot from within the truck.  I have been getting better at holding the camera fairly steady with the iris open, these were 6 second shots at ISO 800, f/11, focus at infinity.  I was using a wide angle lens.

To remove the rain from the windshield I need to have the wipers on; sometimes there are drops in the shot but that goes with the territory; not much I can do about that given it is raining.  Luckily the lightning is so quick and otherwise it is dark (no light) so most of the shots you don’t see the wipers.  Then it is just a waiting game, reviewing the pictures to ensure the field of view is what is expected.  Unfortunately the lightning was infrequent, about 90 seconds apart, so I got a lot of black pictures I had to delete later.

As always, click on the photo for a larger size.

Lightning

Interesting placement of the bolt and the tower, I wish I could say it was planned, but nothing about that shot was planned; all luck…and being in the right place at the right time!

Lots o lightning

Lots going on in this shot, it was very bright!

Anvil Crawler Lightning

One of the last anvil crawler style bolts of the evening, just before midnight; the last one was massive (there was about 5 minutes between it and the previous) and it was so bright and long that I moved the camera (I have to admit I was getting tired and it startled me) and the picture was blurred/jittery.

Upward Streamer Lightning

Close-up of the previous shot (lower right) showing three upward streamers, the right most one got the return strike but was a bit off from the original streamer (or there were 4).

Colorado Lightning

If only we could harness that…looks like it almost tapped us!

b&w lightning photo

Cool black and white shot, south Douglas County Colorado, Aug 28th about 11:30pm.

Rifle Falls State Park, Colorado

We love visiting Rifle Falls State Park in western Colorado, this is the fourth time we’ve stayed there.  Rifle Falls SP is north of Rifle and New Castle which are Interstate 70 towns, and is about 25 miles NW of Glenwood Springs Colorado.  It is a small park and is co-managed with Rifle Gap State Park several miles to the west.  There are tent camping sites along the small creek with a good amount of privacy.  Pull-in sites have electricity and will accommodate pop-ups to motor homes.  There is potable water available at several taps in the campsites.  There are a couple of non-flush bathrooms making those early morning trips convenient.

Beyond the campsites is parking and picnic areas at the main attraction, the three waterfalls.  Over the weekend the park was heavily visited, so we hung out at the very well shaded tent campsites with our chairs and feet in the creek, occasionally taking plunges in the pools of cold, refreshing Colorado stream.  In the evenings we hung out in the luxury of our friends pop-up camper and had a great campfire.

There are hikes around the tent sites, a loop around the falls, and a loop to the neighboring fish hatchery.  There are many caves along the falls loop where you can go inside and enjoy some darkness.  Nighttime boasts dark skies in the canyon.  Overall a fun multi-family camping experience!

Waterfalls at Rifle Falls

Rifle Falls State Park, Colorado

Middle waterfall

Middle waterfall on a longer exposure

Hidden cave

The limestone is full of caves

B&W Middle Falls

Black and White shot of the middle falls

Middle falls @ Rifle Falls

Middle falls @ Rifle Falls

Rifle Falls

Rifle Falls State Park, Colorado

Moon in the pond

Moon in the pond

Northern side of the Milky Way

Northern side of the Milky Way

Milky Way

Southern side of the Milky Way with some clouds

shooting star milky way

2 second shooter as the moon was rising.

Prospecting Tips and Hints

Last year I published an article How to Find Crystals that detailed some of the techniques I use and general prospecting tips, hoping to give several tips and hints to aid in expediting the learning curve of digging crystals.  I’ve gotten some great feedback from that article and appreciate all the comments.

tn_OneTwoPocket-00643

One of the things I tried to cover in that blog posting was what to look for on the surface and how to know if you are in a good spot and should continue digging, or bury the hole and continue the prospecting elsewhere.  I knew it would be difficult to share that experience, as I’m still learning myself and it’s one of those things you can read about all day long but you don’t “get it” until you actually can see and experience how it is done.  The pictures and text in that article were helpful I feel; but it still left me with questions after reading it–knowing that I had a plan for this year’s prospecting trips…

That blog posting was just the first of many postings I plan to do sharing what I’ve figured out on finding pegmatite crystals.  I was able to get out digging late this spring and my goal was to take some video while I was on the hunt, hopefully showing what I look for on the surface and what I look for as I follow the pegmatite trail to the crystals (assuming I find crystals, which many times I don’t)!  This video hopefully will provide some tips and hints of what works for me in the toughest part of the process, the initial prospecting and test holes.

Unfortunately due to leaving the camera in the sun too long, the pocket extraction video was corrupt, but the good stuff from a prospecting perspective was saved showing progress as I was hunting for the pocket.  You’ll see that demonstrated in the video below.

I would love your feedback, questions and suggestions.  I plan to do other videos showing different techniques.

The small crystal pocket I eventually hit I’m calling the OneTwo.  It was mainly Microcline crystals, most were Carlsbad twinned!  On these, once cleaned up, opposite faces had a blue tint of Amazonite to them; not as deep of green color as you find elsewhere in the region, but still really nice and a lot of fun.  The smokey quartz I found all had secondary coatings of a darker colored quartz which will be very difficult to remove.

Amazonite

Interesting cluster of Amazonite / Microcline joined at a ~45 degree angle.

Amazonite Carsbad Twin

Carlsbad twinned Amazonite (light blue) with a small amount of cleavelandite sprays.

Carlsbad Amazonite

Nice little pair of Carlsbad twinned Amazonite with a bit of cleavelandite.

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These are the largest crystals from the pocket, each about 3.5 inches tall. They had to be repaired as they came out in 3 pieces, the cap to the larger crystal was cleaved off and the two crystals had been separated and were found about a foot from each other in the pocket.

smokey quartz

Smoky Quartz showing the secondary quartz growth. These have been soaked in a heated chemical bath for several weeks and look at lot better than they originally did; but this is as far as I will clean them as the quartz underneath is not worth the effort.

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Some of the nicer twinned amazonites from the OneTwo pocket.

Smoky Quartz

Examples of the coated smoky quartz from the OneTwo. The larger crystals are nearly 3 inches long.  There were mostly microcline crystals in the pocket; which is opposite of what I typically find in the region.

Prospecting February

Was able to pull off some winter prospecting this month!  Typically rockin’ season doesn’t start here in the Colorado Rockies until April timeframe, sometimes a bit later when the snow is all melted and the ground good and thawed. But this winter is a little different and I have been out prospecting several times since early February already! Yes, there is snow to contend with, but not enough to keep me indoors!

I was able to hit three different spots so far this winter.  All three spots had snow, but there was enough good southern exposed area to have limited snow and somewhat thawed ground.

The first prospecting trip I found signs of quartz and feldspar leading up a hill and followed it.  In several cases I found signs of other digging; good news is I was on the right trail; bad news I was on it after others were…but the signs were good and I suspect there are other areas to check out, so chalk this area up to needing another trip!

The second place I started finding some float about 6 inches under the surface. Heading uphill I was able to find several cool crystals (and many more quartz with faces) so I feel confident they did float downhill; but I haven’t found the source yet. Either the original pocket was above present day ground, or there is more searching to do.  I’m trusting the latter will yield results and plan to hit this spot again this spring.

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interesting quartz crystal coated with hematite giving a very sparkly luster to the stone.

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Large five inch smoky quartz float crystal. This one had a fracture and rehealed; must have busted during formation a billion years ago!

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This crystal is awesome, the best one I found. It is double-terminated with several coatings, one of white quartz and the other of hematite.

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Same crystal as above showing the double terminations and multiple growths.

The third area was one I have visited before, before long I was back into the pocket mud which was very sticky and messy!  I found some neat fluorite crystals and some rather odd and interesting quartz.  None of these have been properly cleaned but will show you the parallel growth and unique crystal clusters.

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I love the larger quartz crystals around the edge, and the elestial growth in the center!

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This quartz cluster were terminated everywhere (thousands of times), and differently terminated on both sides. Probably my favorite find of the day! This side has white quartz in parallel elestial growth patterns.

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This side had the one larger quartz crystal with the smaller points adjoining it. Can’t see it much here, but it has a tint of green throughout!

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I love this fluorite, fairly gemmy and has some purple, otherwise clear. As you gaze into it, it sucks time from existence!

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Several pyramid fluorites came out of the this spot. This is the smallest, and gemmiest…I immediately came up with this idea for a photograph, so I carefully wrapped this in newspaper and to my delight it was clear enough to pull off this shot! Fun!

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Got my itch to do some prospecting early this spring which was fun!  Look forward to heading up again here soon, hopefully!  Spring has not yet arrived!

Palmer Divide Petrified Wood

Here are some of the petrified wood pieces that I picked up at my friend’s property in Northeastern Douglas County in Colorado this last weekend. The wood in Douglas County dates back up to 55 million years ago. To put this in perspective, the last phase of tectonic activity formed Rocky Mountains around 80-55 million years ago; so these are wood from the forests on the craggy, new Rocky Mountains! Interestingly, much more recently in time (about 100ish years ago), wood forested from the Palmer Divide was used to build cities like Denver. Forests have covered the land here in east-central Colorado for a long time!

So how did I find it, well, I just walked around and picked it up off of the ground, for the most part.  It tended to be all together, so once I found something on the surface, I could search around that area and find more.  I also tried digging some, and there was more under the surface as well.

Still searching for the intact logs on this property like was found recently at the Cherokee Ranch in central Douglas County!  Anyone have any suggestions for lapidary treatment of petrified wood?

What a great find!

What a great find!

This was one of the larger pieces I brought home.  About 16 to 18 inches long.

This was one of the larger pieces I brought home. About 16 to 18 inches long.

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These red and orange pieces are just beautiful!

These red and orange pieces are just beautiful!

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Some of the pile, you can see the variety of color and agatized wood.

Some of the pile, you can see the variety of color and agatized wood.

I especially liked the color on this piece.

I especially liked the color on this piece.

This has the neat bark and also a view into the beautiful golden yellow wood.

This has the neat bark and also a view into the beautiful golden yellow wood.