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

Devils Head Picking Field Trip

Went up to Devils Head with the Lake George Gem and Mineral Club to do some pickin’ today.  Last week the Fire Watch Tower / Campground area was hit with a EF0/EF1 tornado (max wind 90 mph, 500 yards long, 100 yards wide max) and is currently closed due to all the snapped trees.  Luckily we didn’t go to that area and could continue with the field trip.

We went to the area east of the Topaz Picnic Area, near the old topaz mine and claims.  I hadn’t had much luck in this area in the past, but it was good to hang out with like-minded folks and give it another try.  I prospected an area that was level on the hillside with many other digs (this area is heavily dug) about 40 feet away, and about 40 feet or so below a really old dig.  My goal was to either hope to find the pegmatite dike or perhaps find some float.

Immediately I found a clear quartz that was healed.  I had to look carefully because it was amazingly clear and gemmy like topaz, but the growth lines on the crystal faces were perpendicular to the axis through the point and it had a quartz shape, so no go on my first topaz at Devils Head.

Following Float

Dig area, following the float uphill

For those that often ask me what I’m looking for, this is something I didn’t find much online or in the books.  This technique is just what I’ve figured out and there could be much better ways to prospect, but this will at least give you something to try the next time you are up digging if you are looking for things to try…

I scrape off the top soil to see what is at the boundry of the top soil and gravel layers...or "float".

I scrape off the top soil to see what is at the boundry of the top soil and gravel layers…or “float”.

Quartz

Clear Quartz in the sunlight makes it look like Topaz…

I continued to dig uphill (in the picture above I ended about 10 feet above the trees at the top of the photo) and as I got close to the old dig the quartz started to get larger.  I was finding float, or quartz that is below the organic layer of dirt and above the gravel, or about up to 6 inches below the surface.  Once I hit the clear quartz I started to dig around that, and then when I hit the first double terminated crystal I was able to form a trajectory up the hill and continued in that general direction.  It took a little while to figure out the direction but once I did the area I had to prospect was smaller making the process quicker.

The double terminated smaller quartz was the second I found, and the larger double terminated quartz was the last I found at this location.  Not pictured are all the shaped pieces of quartz (but not fully euhedral) that kept me on the chase up the hill.

Float Quartz

Milky quartz crystals found while digging the float. The large one on the upper right was double terminated and so was the one in the lower left.  The two in the middle show gemmy smoky quartz under the milky coating.

double terminated quartz

Double Terminated crystal shows several periods of growth. Original was likely to the pegmatite ceiling or floor, then it broke off and was healed (you can see this clearly on the other face).

Other folks were also having luck so it was a great day, the folks next to me pulled out a nice 4 inch smoky quartz!  After my hole was filled in I got up to check out the finds of other folks, but most folks had already left, no wonder it had gotten quiet!  I chatted with one other person who was in a small pocket in a very large dig and he had some nice crystals too.

I decided to try another spot and started to dig again after having lunch.  Here I was able to find a small seam in harder pegmatite that produced some nice twin smoky quartz and some light blue amazonite crystal faces.

Overall a fun day pickin’ at Devils Head!

Smoky Quartz

Smoky Quartz found in second location.  The 4 crystals at the right were sidewall type crystals (the backs on a couple are not terminated).  They were all found in a seam of pegmatite, not a pocket with sand, so it took a while to excavate from the small area.

You can see the white overgrowth on the otherwise gemmy smoky quartz

You can see the white overgrowth on the otherwise gemmy smoky quartz

Devils Head Amazonite

Amazonite found in the second location. More bluish than traditional green in color.

One thing about Devils Head crystals is they almost always need a bath as they have iron oxide staining, especially the amazonite/microcline.  These photos above are of the crystals just rinsed of with water, showing exactly how they look when fresh out of the ground!  The photos below are after a week of heated oxalic acid bath.

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Soaked in a chemical bath for a week.  Still some staining, but looking nicer!

Soaked in a chemical bath for a week. Still some staining, but looking nicer!

Twin Smokies

Twin Smoky Quartz with lots of iron staining…needs a bath!  Looks like it could be gemmy!

Nice etched polka dot patterns!

Nice etched polka dot patterns on the point!

Smoky Quartz

Needs a good cleaning, but this Smoky Quartz is gemmy and also has some nice small crystal growth on the point.  The back side is also terminated..really close to being a double terminated crystal!

Love the little gemmy crystal on the termination

Love the little gemmy crystal on the termination

Pikes Peak Batholith Colorado Amazonite Colors

I have found Amazonite now in several locations throughout the Colorado Pikes Peak Batholith.  After soaking many pieces of amazonite in acid for about 3 months to try and pull some of the iron oxide staining out of the crystals I got to wondering if finds from different locations in the Pikes Peak Batholith zone were consistent.  Regarding the iron oxide staining, I have had varied success with this winter’s cleaning; some the staining is embedded deep into the stones.

Amazonite is crystallized feldspar microcline with trace amounts of Lead (Pb) giving the green color, normally microcline is a pinkish/salmon color and up on Mt Antero is it white. There are a couple of examples of white capping and white striping (inclusion of orthoclase) shown here which I’m excited to have–the Amazonite in the Smithsonian museum is completely white capped/striped coming from the Two Point Claim–which is incidentally immediately between the Smoky Hawk and April Fools–the claims where I have gotten most of my Lake George stones. Amazonite and Smoky Quartz combos are highly sought and somewhat valuable. There are a couple of combos in the center of this picture from finds in the Lake George area.  Although I have found many smoky quartz and some Amazonite at Devils Head, only a few combos have been unearthed.  I can see why the combos are sought as they have been rare for me too.

There definitely is a different intensity of color throughout the different zones of the Pikes Peak Batholith.  You can see that the darkest (most desirable) color is from the Lake George area in Teller County, although I have found some paler color in that area, I have not found any pink microcline. The few pieces I have from the Wigwam district in Jefferson County are lighter green but have fantastic crystal formations; I have also found pink there. The Devils Head variety is more bluish and definitely paler, but many of the stones I have found have signs of the white capping/zoning in the crystals; most of the microcline at Devils Head is pink for me. I have some Amazonite from the Pine Creek area which is more green than Devils Head but still paler than Lake George.

Amazonite Colors

A comparison of amazonite color from throughout the Pikes Peak Batholith of Colorado (click for larger image)

I have not yet searched out the entire list of known locations for Amazonite throughout the Pikes Peak Batholith, so someday perhaps my color observations can be more thorough.  The following map is an arial view (courtesy Google Maps) of the areas I have searched and locations are color coded to match the above specimens.  Would love to hear your experiences, knowledge and thoughts on the topic in the comments!

Pikes Peak Batholith Amazonite location map

Pikes Peak Batholith Amazonite location map

Larkspur alluvial smoky quartz

Over the last 15 or so years I have collected alluvial smoky quartz crystals along the roads in our neighborhood while out and about.  Others in my neighborhood have also shown me crystals they have found.  I have seen some Native American points found in the area made out of smoky quartz too that are quite amazing.

These quartz crystals are alluvial and are obviously a ways from where they started.  I am assuming these originated in the Devils Head area and were ground down as they were transported by glaciers.  Many of these are very gemmy inside and could be used for cutters.

At the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society rock show many years ago I visited a club booth where one of the members found a huge alluvial smoky crystal along Fountain Creek that was on display.  This particular stone was a large gem (perhaps eight inches in diameter) and they had another similar size quartz they found faceted; both came from the creek bed.  That is when I decided that the larger stones don’t facet well (at least to my eye) — although the faceter did an excellent job it just didn’t sparkle like the smaller cuts.

Alluvial Smoky Quartz

My small collection of Smoky Quartz found along the roads near Larkspur Colorado.

Larkspur Smoky Quartz

This one came from a rut at the side of a road under some pine needles

Larkspur Smoky Quartz

This I found just a couple of weeks ago while walking the dog. Very gemmy inside.

Just goes to show that prospecting can be easy and very close to home; just need to keep a trained eye on the ground!

Gobbler Smoky Quartz part 2

Headed up to Devils Head Colorado in late May on a gorgeous spring day to test my luck with finding Smoky Quartz crystals.  I decided to visit a location I had luck with on Thanksgiving 2013 to see if the pegmatite continued on into a bigger pocket.

I started by digging more into the harder country rock directly behind where the pocket from last year pinched out.  I went about 5 feet (of hard rock digging) around that area and found nothing of interest.  Then I decided to head the other direction, which was piled with tailings and pegmatite rocks so I had some housecleaning to do.  Immediately upon getting below the surface I pulled out a microcline that looked good…probably less than 2 inches below ground.  I took another scrape with the shovel to remove sticks and top soil and a girthy 2 inch smoky popped out of the ground!  This is the closest pocket to the surface I have ever found, the pocket bottomed out about 4-5 inches deep!

I took some video pulling out medium sized smoky quartz from this small pocket.  As quickly as it started, it ended.  I dug for 5-7 feet more but determined that the pegmatite at that point would have been above the current ground level.  It was getting late and I was several miles from the car, so I buried the hole, packed up and hiked out.

Upon thinking about this more, I will pay another visit to this area and start prospecting down the hill for float that may have come out of the seam over the millions of years of erosion in this location (usually I find float and dig uphill towards the hopeful pocket). Never thought of doing this before so we’ll see if this twist on my normal routine pays out.  ???

This cluster was at the bottom of the pocket.  Note the back side where the graphic granite is obvious.  This is what you want to look for when digging test holes or while prospecting!

This small cluster was at the bottom of the pocket. Note the back side where the graphic granite is obvious. This is what I look for when digging test holes or while prospecting!  Curious on the light colored smokey in the center.

Some examples of the smoky quartz I found (still to be cleaned)

Some examples of the smoky quartz I found (still to be cleaned).  The right most is the one with the broken tip.  Interestingly, so far this year each pocket/seam I’ve hit has one (and only one) nice smoky with a broken tip….in each case I have found it near by.  Interesting…

Devil’s Head weekend pickin’ camping trip

My buddy Terry introduced me to Devil’s Head locality back in 2009 through his friend Bill, who is a long time Picker all over Colorado.  Thanks to Bill I’ve had a ton of fun pickin’ here!  We’ve been wanting to meet up for years but one thing or another has prevented it from happening, until now!  Terry and I took a Friday off of work and headed up to Devil’s Head first thing in the morning.  There was a fresh snow earlier in the week and we figured there would be some left in the shady spots; but not enough to ruin a good weekend camp trip.  Well, there was a little more snow than we thought, about 3-4″ in the road going in, but it was supposed to be a gorgeous weekend so we decided a little snow wouldn’t hurt us.

I had all the camp spots scouted out in the area and there was one I always have been fond of, and luckily because of the early season and Friday morning (and covered in snow!) it was available.  All these campsites are first come first serve.  We parked and Terry started to set up camp while I dug snow away from where we wanted our tents.

Bill brought a friend Cliff who was a first time picker and they met us later that evening. The day was gorgeous and we had a wonderful weekend camping trip.  We picked two days, one day at a spot that I have had luck in the past and one that Bill had luck with many years back.  At my spot we found some crystals but nothing super.  The second day I bumped into a small seam of small, root beer gemmy crystals.

It was a great weekend and Bill had some useful tips that he shared from his decades of experience.  I went up the following weekend to finish up a spot but didn’t have any luck. Overall, a wonderful camping weekend early in the season, and a beautiful view from our campsite.  Also, some nice smaller gemmy crystals to bring home.

Campsite was awesome; needed a little snow shovelling though.

Campsite was awesome; needed a little snow shovelling though. NOTE: The snow proved very handy to keep our beer cold!

View of the Pikes Peak Batholith and Pikes Peak!

View of the eastern Pikes Peak Batholith and Pikes Peak!

View towards the west

View towards the west

Wonderful view of Pikes Peak

Wonderful view of Pikes Peak each morning

Boogie found this under a fallen tree.  I didn't see what kind of bird it was; but the eggs were the same size as chicken eggs.

Boogie found this under a fallen tree. Believe it was a grouse.

Devil's Head small seam

Devil’s Head small seam…most are gemmy root beer colored smoky quartz.

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Great article on Devils Head Topaz

I found this several years ago and just came across it again recently.  This is an old article on the Mineralogical Society of America’s web site about a Topaz dig at Devils Head.  This is from American Mineralogist journal from 1945.

It talks about dig(s) during the summer of 1934 of Edwin Over and Arthur Montgomery. The article is technical and shows detailed drawings and crystallography of the Topaz they found at this locale.

http://www.minsocam.org/ammin/AM20/AM20_354.pdf

All of the journal is posted online here and free through 1999.

A few takeaways…

  • it is noteworthy that the pockets especially rich in iron are poor in topaz (pg 355)
  • Within the pockets the microcline masses reach 6 or 8 inches in greatest dimension; well-formed crystals are relatively rare and they do not exceed a size of two inches
  • Quartz occurs in smoky crystals, in most cases slender and distorted

I have yet to find Topaz at Devils Head, but most of the larger smoky quartz I find is as they describe.

Prospecting Devils Head – Thanksgiving “Gobbler” Crystal Pocket

I had the opportunity to dig on Thanksgiving this year so I went up two days straight to Devils Head to enjoy the beautiful unseasonably warm weather we were having.  It had snowed earlier in the week and there was quite a bit of coverage.  I took Boogie and we prospected in a new area eventually finding some float with the greenest coarse Amazonite I’ve seen at this locale.

The ground was covered with snow but I was able to dig and work my way into a small quartz / amazonite seam.  The frozen ground (about 8″ deep) made it difficult to find the crystals but I did find some.  The float amazonite was better color than most of the crystals I pulled out and nothing was euhedral and well shaped, but I brought home several small chunks to clean up.  I have this spot in mind for when the snow melts next spring.

I then took a several mile hike and finished out the “Double-Quad” pocket.  I pulled out a couple more nice light amazonite and marble countertop crystals and some books of mica.  Not too much left but there was a branch of the pocket I missed.  I was in the shade for this process so I decided to walk some more IN THE SUN and see what prospecting I could do.

Book of Mica from the Double Quad Pocket Day #2

Book of Mica from the Double Quad Pocket Day #2

Contents for the Double-Quad pocket Day #2, and some garden rocks along the back

Contents for the Double-Quad pocket Day #2, and some garden rocks along the back

I found some granite and quartz chunks laying on the ground so I started digging in a new spot and found several flat sides on some of the quartz chunks I was pulling out.  This lead me to some red-colored dirt and small crystals.  I was in a small seam.  Getting oriented with the seam I followed it North and it would open up and then close up producing mostly small and medium sized crystals along the way.  About two feet into the seam I started hitting larger chunks of quartz and then a small pocket no larger than a football produced some really nice crystals.  This stretched over two days.

Had a wonderful Thanksgiving day; on the way up on Friday I saw a huge flock of Turkeys and thus I felt it appropriate to name this pocket the “Gobbler” pocket.

Smokies from the Gobbler Pocket - 2 days of excavation

Smokies from the Gobbler Pocket – 2 days of excavation

The gates into Devils Head are now closed to vehicles and only ATV/Motorcycles will be allowed until May.  Given I’m 15 miles into Devils Head (by road) and then another couple of miles off road in my newest areas, it will be spring before I am able to prospect this area more.  Can’t wait!

Some of the smokies from the Gobbler Pocket

Some of the smokies from the Gobbler Pocket

 

Both smokies were found away from the base; proving that the pocket was crushed

Both smokies were found away from the matrix; proving that the pocket was crushed, pre-repair shown in the video

Repaired cool smokey

Repaired cool smokey

Smoky from the top plate of the Gobbler Pocket

Smokey from the top plate of the Gobbler Pocket

“Double-Quad” Quartz / Amazonite Pocket

Went up to Devil’s Head again as the weather was supposed to be gorgeous (and it was!) on November 10, 2013.  I am prospecting in a new area and wanted to go back and check out a couple of signs I found on my way out the last trip.  I dug up the area and found some partial microcline and a few smoky quartz crystals.

My next spot was based on a float rock I found.  You’ll see it in the video, lots of white quartz in the pegmatite so I dug directly below.  Ended up finding a cool seam which turned into a small pocket.  The crystals were decent sized (1 to 4 inches) and the microcline was euhedral.

The euhedral amazonite (faint color, common for Devilshead) including some twins

The euhedral amazonite (faint color, common for Devilshead) including some Carslbad twins

The seam and pocket extended for about 24-30 inches (a couple of directions) and had easily 20 pounds of microcline crystal fragments (many came back as garden rock).  As you can see, there is a greenish tint to the microcline making it amazonite (that means it has traces of lead in the mineral).  This is the second time I have found amazonite at Devils Head, here is the account of the first.  There are several smaller Carlsbad Twins in the find too!   Amazonite is much more common (and deeper color) as you head southwest further into the Pikes Peak Batholith, so it was a treat to find this day!

The largest Faint amazonite / microcline euhdral crystal

The largest faint amazonite / microcline euhdral crystal

The smoky quartz was very interesting out of this pocket; I’ve seen milky quartz coated smokies in the area before, but never “granite countertop” coated smokies like this!  It is really a neat color/texture!  I have noticed that soaking these longer the outside coat is slowly coming off; so I have a few crystals that are going to soak for a while to see what the quartz looks like underneath.

Great color, texture and shape to this smoky

Great color, texture and shape to this smoky

This point was right next to a large root that found the seam and followed it

This point was right next to a large root that found the seam and followed it

One of the smokies from the video

One of the smokies from the video

This shows the "granite countertop" coating that was on all the smokys

This shows the “granite countertop” coating that was on all the smokies

Cool smoky quartz from the video, love the coating!

Cool smoky quartz from the video, love the coating!

The "keepers" from the day

The “keepers” from the day – reference is a gold dollar, not a penny

 

Devil’s Head Prospecting Trip – October 2013

Had an open Sunday so I decided to venture up to Devil’s Head Colorado to prospect in a new area that has much less digging than the typical Virgin’s Bath area.  From my neighborhood, I could tell there was snow up on Devil’s Head and the Rampart Range but I decided to give it a try anyway.  Worst case, I figured, I could hit an old site or even prospect some of the old mines that are on the map that I haven’t searched before.

Upon driving up the snow was covering the ground in the trees but the flatter, more open areas appeared to be snow free.  I decided there was enough snow-free area to make it worth a prospecting hike.  I headed a couple miles off of the road and started to see some good signs; but alas there was digging in the area where all looked good.  All the digging was very old; but still it seems that there is no virgin ground around!  I ended up finding a nice white quartz point in that area but decided to continue further off the beaten path.

A little after noon I found a snow-free spot that had some quartz shards that weren’t very crystallized but pretty clear; and some pegmatite so I started to dig.  I ended up pulling an okay crystal of good size out (about 2.5″) and then a great looking microcline crystal; so I figured there could be some finds.  I pulled out the camera and shot some video of the crystals I dug out.  Check it out!

The sun started to get low on the horizon and behind the clouds and with the wind the nearly 40 degrees started to fall quickly; and the clouds were encroaching while flurries started.  Given the car was about 2 miles uphill (much of it very steep) I decided to bury the hole and head out.  Nearly an hour later I was heading out in a cloud/fog looming over Devil’s Head.  All in all, a wonderful Sunday adventure, perhaps the last one of the season for this locale!

Bigger crystals than usual, the largest is about five inches!

Fun crystal seam at Devil's Head

Fun crystal seam at Devil's Head

Thanks to James for identifying the microcline (smaller of the two below) crystal as a Carlsbad Twin due to the 180 degree reversed twin!

3" Twinned Microcline, 4" Quartz and LARGE Microcline