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

Adventures at Topaz Mountain Gem Mine, May 2013

One of my topaz from today's digs...

It’s always a fun adventure to visit the Dorris Family’s Topaz Mine here in Colorado. They allow the public to come by and dig several times per year as well as most of the Rockhounding clubs as well. Due to the late snow this spring this was the first dig, May 25th, 2013. I rounded up a group of adults and kids and we made the bright and early trek to the mine.

Joe and Krystle were telling us that they are working their way uphill a bit on their claim and that the stones are not as frequent as they have been in the past. I have been visiting for several years and I concur, although it seems (just an unscientific observation) that the stones that are being found are getting a bit larger. Perhaps that is not the case…

Anyway, we started digging on some fresh piles that were pretty wet and within about an hour I found my first topaz. It was completely covered in mud; usually they pop out and look gemmy/glassy and are very easy to spot; but this morning due to the conditions was different–making it more difficult to go through as much dirt as in the past.

People digging at the mine

People digging at the mine

Meanwhile, they were also working a section of the mine with the heavy machinery.  Was cool to watch the big machines at work!

 

Big machines at work getting new piles to go through!
It is beautiful up here in the Rocky Mountains in spring time!  Here I am raking through my part of a pile…
Me raking for topaz
My friend Jim wanted to try out digging for Topaz and brought his daughter who is friends with my son.  My daughter Daphne also brought a friend that was in my Rockhounding enrichment class at the Larkspur Elementary school.  There were several other kids digging as well; unfortunately they didn’t find all that much topaz; again I think luck had some to do with it but also the amount of dirt one must go through as well.  They did have a blast though!
Jim and the kids attacking their pile of dirt

We ended up getting our days fill about 2:00 and drove home, made a pit-stop and had had some orange cream soda and a beer at Bierwerks in Woodland Park, and headed home to sift through the bags of dirt.  Here is where the kids got to find and keep some wonderful stones….and they wondered why they had to dig all day when it was this easy!!!

Sifting through our bags of dirt; the kids did quite well!

Sifting through our bags of dirt; the kids did quite well!

All in all, another wonderful day at the Topaz Mountain Gem Mine!  I should have at least one more trip, probably more, back there this summer.  Looking very much forward to it!

 

Here are what my kids found at the mine (the larger one is one of the many found in the bags of dirt!).  Makes me think of some of the lamer parts of the Prospectors show on Weather Channel… guns and gems…

My kids findings...gems and brass

My kids findings...gems and brass

 

My findings from digging all day…

My findings from today!

Nice smokey quartz; double-terminated; a cutter!

Nice smokey quartz; double-terminated; a cutter!

The best cutter stone I found at the Topaz Mountain Gem Mine

The best cutter stone I found

Cute blue faceted gem!  Small but beautiful!

Cute blue faceted gem! Small but beautiful!

Finally, the best for last.  One of the first time diggers there pulled this beast from the ground.  It was absolutely spectacular.  Joe stated that this stone was one of the best (upper 1%) stones he has pulled out of the claim; and is likely one of the best ever found in Colorado.  Unfortunately the person that found it didn’t get to keep it (obviously!) as it was destined for the Dorris personal collection!  This stone was (I’m guessing) 600 carats and nearly flawless.  It didn’t hurt that it was Sherry and Blue bi-color!  Looking at this stone was mesmerizing, every angle had a different look and “feel” to it.  A special day to witness this being pulled from the ground next to us, and to view a stone of this caliber!

Absolutely gorgeous monster topaz found today!

Absolutely gorgeous bi-color monster topaz found today!

Bi-color Incredible Topaz found today

Bi-color Incredible Topaz found today

Monster Topaz - Showing the facets, perfectness, and sherry color

Monster Topaz - Showing the facets, perfectness, and sherry color

Thanks to Harold Alexander for some of the mine pictures, and thanks to Krystle Velasco/Joe Dorris for letting us take pictures of the mine’s wonderful mega-stone!