Rampart Range Prospecting

Did some digging today on the Rampart Range area on the Northeast side of the Pikes Peak Batholith.  This location is known for mainly Smoky Quartz but also sometimes Amazonite and Topaz crystals.  I started off prospecting a new area and did not find much so I wandered off to an old pegmatite I have worked in the past and went further into the zone I had found some crystals in previous years.  I was lucky today and found many smokey quartz including a couple of small plates, and some weak colored and shaped Amazonite.

I originally came upon this area as I saw some loose pegmatite upon the ground that was somewhat graphic.  Graphic granite is where the crystallization gets more pronounced and starts to get shapes and facets on one or many sides.  I was pulling large (50+ pounds) chunks of pegmatite out of the ground and then I came upon a zone that was much smaller chunks of rock.  After pulling out a couple of pieces smoky quartz started to fall out and then I saw a ceiling plate with a crystal intact.  This plate was about 20 pounds so I left it; but I did bring home two plates intact and was able to find 5 crystals that fit back into place…which was worth the haul of these very heavy rocks to the car.

I plan to hit this site one more time as I want to ensure the pocket pinched out, which it appeared to do; but the previous seam of crystals I found along this pegmatite did the same thing, so it obviously opened up a couple times.

Part of the top plate of the small pocket.  This crystal had fallen off but I was able to repair it.

Part of the top plate of the small pocket. This crystal had fallen off but I was able to repair it.

Another view of the top plate in the main part of the pocket!

Another view of the top plate in the main part of the pocket!

This was along the bottom of the pocket

This was along the bottom of the pocket

These two were repaired back together

These two were repaired back together

I love the point on this one.

I love the point on this one.

Nice crystal

Nice crystal

This crystal is mostly gemmy inside.

This crystal is mostly gemmy inside.

Kinda odd facets, but awesome crystal.

Kinda odd facets, but awesome crystal.

Nice large crystal.

Nice large crystal.

Love this point!

Love this point!

Some of the repaired and larger crystals; many or gemmy

Some of the repaired and larger crystals; many or gemmy

tn_DevilsheadBlueAmazon-1786

These are mostly gemmy

These are mostly gemmy

Smaller but gemmy crystals!

Smaller but gemmy crystals!

Part of the larger bottom plate near the center of the pocket.

Part of the larger bottom plate near the center of the pocket.

Some light colored Amazonite crystals.

Some light colored Amazonite crystals.

These will require a long soaking; but I kinda like them as is...

These will require a long soaking; but I kinda like them as is…

 

“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

Devil’s Head Rockhounding Late Summer 2013

I’ve made several trips up to Devil’s Head during the late summer this year. The last was September 29th (okay, I know, it is early fall, not late summer as the title suggests).  The USFS closes the gate December 1st or earlier so hopefully I’ll make it up a couple more times this year.

In very late August I went with a couple of fellow Rockhounds I met through the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society. (If you want to read a very informative rockhounding blog, and see big crystals (!!), head over to Kevin’s blog, or check out Badger2410’s YouTube channel; both are local Rockhounders). The goal on this trip was to show my guests some successful places from the past and then head out deep into the forest and prospect in fairly new woods away from where everyone ventures! Well, we didn’t really venture too far as the spot we started we ended up at all day.

Nice Gemmy Smokey I found

Nice Gemmy Smokey I found

I found one really nice gemmy crystal and a couple of other so-so ones. I also snagged a couple of small ones that Kevin didn’t want (my daughter always asks me to show her the smallest crystals when I get home; I can’t disappoint!) in addition to the several small ones I found. Bob found the largest of the day following float up the hill. All in all a very fun day!

I went a couple of weeks later and prospected looking for a partially cleared pocket that someone had left and I had buried.  I know the area pretty well but for some reason this has eluded me for 3 years now in searching.  Perhaps it was just a dream…except for a have a couple of nice smokey’s I pulled out of that pocket.  Next year will be the year!

My latest venture so far in 2013 was Sunday September 29th.  It was a beautiful fall day and I was surprised that the trees had not begun turning yet; which was a little disappointing and part of the reason I chose to go there.  I decided I was going to explore a new area so I parked and then hiked about 2 miles into the forest.  I saw some signs of digging and kept going until I didn’t see many holes or previous diggings.  I then started prospecting and after about an hour I started finding some very cool signs.

Float - Signs of a good pocket?

Float - Signs of a good pocket?

I followed the float up the very steep hill and kept finding good signs; most with lichen making me think it had been undisturbed and I was going to find a cool pocket.

More float

If this isn't a good sign then what is?

I then ran into this nice crystal face (above) and was getting excited.  A little ways up the hill I found the source; and it had been all dug up.  Bummer!  It appeared to have been dug a very long time ago as all the shards were well buried in dirt and under the needles.  I was a bit disappointed but curiosity got the best of me and I dug around in the previous diggings as I always do to try and figure out what they saw; in addition to what they missed!  In excavating what I thought to be previous tailings I started to find good crystals, covered in red mud, in red dirt.  Ended up this was a side branch of the main pocket and it was untouched.  I dug here for the rest of the morning and pulled out some nice microcline and crystals.  They appeared so-so but I never second guess until they are cleaned up so I usually take them home anyway.  After about 4 hours there, and realizing I had a small bucket of cool garden rock and some potential keepers, I decided to head out another direction and continue to prospect for later this or next year.

Crystal under the iron?

No clue how this will clean up, some nice small crystals on the side

Again, needing some serious cleaning

Again, some tabbies needing some serious cleaning

After about 10 days in acid, far from perfect, but still a nice crystal.

Some nice sized ones, we'll see how they clean...

 

Cool double terminated clusters

 

Sidewall cluster

I love this crystal; terminations are great on the concave bottom!

Findings of the day including floaters

Findings of the day including floaters

 

I especially like the floaters as they all have lichen and look great in the garden with the rest of the shards and other pieces I’ve brought home over the years.  They will also remind me of the pocket that I was 50 years too late on!  LOL!

I’ve just started a Phosphoric Acid bubble bath.  My friends from the CSMS procured a gallon of the acid that they were kind enough to sell to me and I’m excited to use this in a crock-pot bath to see about cleaning these heavily stained crystals.  This is my first time using Phosphoric Acid, so I can’t wait to see the results; if the crystals aren’t embarrassing, I’ll post some cleaned-up pictures!

Nice floater on the way back...

Nice floater on the way back...

On my way back to the car I found this microcline cluster sitting by a tree.  Usually that means it has rolled down hill from another’s diggings; but I followed it up.  There was what appeared to be a very small digging up the hill; too small (so it seemed) to have anything cool like this come from it (or the person would have dug more); so I don’t know.  The diggings were VERY old again, so perhaps I’ll check it out on a future trip!

More Devilshead – July 2012

Only been a couple of times thus far this summer; hope to make it up a few more times.  I went back to the spot from July 13th as something told me I missed something; and missed something I did.  I ended up finding a very light smokey that I thought was topaz at the top of the seam; but further downhill there was more to be uncovered!  All crystals were very black (morion) and attached to nothing just sitting in the dirt.  There were two seams; one right underground and another about a foot or 18 inches deep.  The crystals and parts were pretty etched but it was a nice seam…found two small topaz as well!   I dug that area up and I’m pretty confident that I got everything…learned a lot with this area about how to prospect and dig as I missed the main seams on the first day.

I love the multi-color capped Microcline crystal!

I'm pretty sure this is Topaz; not a crystal per-se; I've never seen this before!

Finally, everything found on the second day at this location near Topaz Point Picnic Area…which by the way has a terrific view of the Pikes Peak Batholith area!

Found some wonderful crystals today! Morion Smokey Quartz, multi-colored capped Microcline, and Topaz!

Devils Head: Friday the 13th

Headed up to Devil’s head today.  Decided to dig around the Topaz Point picnic area as I have not yet dug around there.  I went about 30 yards from the car and saw a cool mushroom on a tree stump; after looking at that I noticed the graphic pegmatite laying on the ground so I started digging.  Immediately I started seeing some shapes on the pegmatite so I was pretty excited.  Here are some of the examples of what I was digging up…

Shaped pegmatite I was digging up immediately after starting...

More shaped peg...

I was getting pretty excited for what I may find...

I ended up finding a couple of small smoky quartz and a couple of nicer ones; but the pegmatite was no longer graphic and produced no more shapes or crystals after searching about 10 feet in diameter around.  So I picked up and took a walk…

I came across some good looking pegmatite on the surface so I started to dig.  Immediately I found a couple of pieces of white quartz with one side faceted and then I found a nice pink microcline crystal.  I started to dig up hill and ended up finding a long-gone seam…just quartz and microcline in the dirt (to start with); all less than 1 foot deep.  I played here for a while until I had to leave.

Cool clearish smokey...should be a cutter...!

Found this one less than an inch below the surface...

I liked this microcline because of the way the crystals formed together.  The bottom crystal in deeper on the right side because of the crystal on top of it.  Found several other pieces of microcline too; include a full nice sized crystal.

Stacked microcline crystals Notice the space for a smoky on top!

Friday the 13th's Devilshead stash!

Devilshead Rockhounding – September 2011

Did a bunch of prospecting this trip with my dad; we started by finding some nice large float pieces but could not find the source of these; which could have been a road.  We ate lunch and then ran upon this spot which had been excavated prior; but we saw a couple of signs of Amazonite so we decided to dig.  I was finding “okay” Amazonite crystals and my dad was working the larger pegmatite next to an existing hole.  Dad finally ran into a small side pocket off of the side and pulled out some of the nicer, large smokeys of the day!

I found relatively few crystals but several faint Amazonite parts and so was having a good time.  The Amazonites came from the hole above my head shown in the next picture.  A few days later I came back and found a bunch of smokys in the unearthed area above my head into the side of the hill.  The grey circle is where I finished the day and found the nice plate shown below.

Excavating Devilshead smokey crystals and Amazonite

Amazonites (uncleaned) from the first day at this location

Devilshead September 25, 2011

Devilshead smokeys

Here is the plate from the small seam; it was neat to see how the seam opened up and the signs in the rock as that happened. Thanks to my dad for uncovering much of this evidence! That was hard work!  The piece needs clean and trimmed; currently it is about 10 inches wide!

Find of the day, this plate with Amazonites and Smokies

Father’s Day Weekend Devils Head Dig-a-thon

I had a earned day off on Friday of Father’s Day weekend and so I decided to go crystal hunting. Hunter and his friend Trevar have always wanted to go with me so I figured with they being off for the summer it was a perfect day. We left at 7am and headed up to Devilshead. The plan of the day was to try and find a hole that had long been abandoned and check out the bottom to see if there was anything left. Then once it got warmer we’d head back to where I had luck last year. Well, that plan never worked out…

We never found the hole I was looking for and we hiked quite a bit, so I decided, since it was on the way, to hit a spot where we could likely pull some “scraps” from other digs–give the kids a chance to get “in the mood” and then get them digging! While they were checking out the tailings, I decided to check out a pit where I found my first two crystals ever to see if there was anything. The hole had been worked since last year so I figured it was stale; but after about 10 minutes I hit a little “mud”. That is where I stayed all weekend! 😉

Here is my work environment with the large crystal in the vug

I worked in some mud and was finding some interesting crystals; nothing “perfect” but definitely 2 or 3 faced smokey quartz and somewhat large. I had some hard rock in the way of a crystal I found so I excavated that section and discovered the pocket was larger than I thought. I started to work on the right side of the pocket and discovered some flat sides on a “rock”. I worked this side of the pocket for the next couple of hours.

Large crystal awaiting extraction

Here is the large crystal after at least 90 minutes of excavation work

For some reason the big crystal wouldn’t move; I finally was able to get it to move slightly and found that it was hung up on something behind the crystal.  I removed some mud back there and discovered another crystal attached.  I was able to pull the crystal out of the mud finally, and to my surprise there was a point on the other end!  Wow, a huge crystal (I never dreamed I’d find) in my hand!

The monster crystal

To my surprise a terminated crystal! HUGE!

After pulling this out, I figured out what it was caught up on, another small little crystal fell into my hand when pulling this huge one out.

The little crystal that was holding up excavation of the huge crystal

The little crystal that was holding up excavation of the huge crystal

The kids were pretty impressed too but they decided to continue on their fort made with sticks and a hole. There were a couple of large (one larger) crystals in the same pocket so I with renewed energy started working on those. Ended up the biggest crystal hit the bottom of the pocket after about 4″, so it was huge in girth but didn’t do anything as far as a point.  I have that in the rock garden out front as a momento.  The other crystal in the back of the pocket looked promising and I worked on that the rest of the day; but didn’t get it out by the time we had to leave–working in that pocket mud/clay is somewhat difficult and you have to be extremely careful so you don’t break any other crystals.

Nice Microcline crystal

Nice Microcline crystal

I found a couple of cool Microcline crystals this first day and also some neat double-terminated flat crystals.

Cool double terminated flat crystal

Cool double terminated flat crystal

The pocket continued…Saturday AM.

We had a birthday party to go to at 2pm, so I woke up early and headed back up the hill to see what I could excavate in the 4 hours I had.  Not messing around, once I booked it into the hole I started by excavating more area to work in so I wouldn’t have to lay down like the day before.  That ended up being a good 30 minute investment for sure.  I ended up pulling out a lot of the pocket and found some great smokeys and microcline crystals, including several funky double-terminated ones that were great.  The large crystal ended up terminating into the granite so there was no point; but it was worth the effort for sure as I pulled out some great other crystals in the process!

Nice thin crystal from the left side of the pocket

Nice thin crystal from the left side of the pocket

Nice gemmy fatty!  Part of a cluster that I have yet to fully excavate.

Nice gemmy fatty! Part of a cluster that I have yet to fully excavate.

Another cool microcline crystal.

Another cool microcline crystal.

This microcline is the coolest one I’ve ever seen.  This was sitting below the granite dividing the two sides of the pocket.  Ultra cool crystal!

Ultra cool microcline beast!

Ultra cool microcline beast!

The Giant all cleaned up

The Giant, all cleaned up

This is the second big crystal that took a while on Saturday to pull out.  Even though it isn’t terminated, it is really neat with lots of detail in every side!

Big crystal #2

Big crystal #2

Here are a couple of the double terminated crystals I found immediately behind the big crystal #2.  It was time to head back, but there was a lot of cool stuff behind this crystal…ended up still home early so no damage done! 🙂

Sweet double terminated smokey

Sweet double terminated smokey

Super cool double terminated with tiny tip

Super cool double terminated with tiny tip

I was pretty excited when I pulled this big guy out.  Like a lot of the crystals I pulled out, they do not have very straight sides but instead have a lot of character.

Sweet large crystal

Sweet large crystal

This one was nice and gemmy, but obviously had another rock at its tip…

Gemmy flat sided crystal; one of the few with flat sides

Gemmy flat sided crystal; one of the few with flat sides

Here is the collection of nice microcline crystals I pulled out and cleaned.

Microcline collection from the pocket

Microcline collection from the pocket

There were several more really nice crystals, you’ll just have to pay a visit to take a look at them 🙂  I also found more imperfect crystals like this one that were way cool; several that were thinner than glass and in a small “pane”.

Cool flat crystal, not terminated but interesting shape.

Cool flat crystal, not terminated but interesting shape.

This is terminated on one side, very cool crystal!

This is terminated on one side, very cool crystal!

Between the success at Devilshead, the Saturday birthday party and the Sunday BBQ, this was a great father’s day weekend!  Thanks everyone, including you, mother earth!

Dad’s Crystals

Last time I visited my folks I took some quick photos of their crystals…

Smokey on Matrix from Devils Head, 2009 trip.

Nice smoky on Microcline from the same pocket as above at Devishead.

Smoky on cool Microcline Crystals

Another picture of this cool crystals…

And another picture:

A nice Amethyst cluster from Brazil (?):

Nice cluster of Amethyst

A nice encrysted Amethyst:
Encrusted Amethyst

Galena Crystal:
Galena

Awesome Pyrite:

2009 Crystal Hunting in Review: Devils Head

In retrospect, I had a great year digging at Devil’s Head in the Pike National Forest.  Firstly, I can  be digging in about 65 minutes from starting the car here at the house.  Nothing like being close to the action!  2009 was definitely a beginner’s year for me and I learned quite a bit.  I also got quite lucky (and unlucky).

I ended up finding a spot (luck!) that produced right away.  I visited that hole about 6-7 times this fall.  Most days were good; but there were a couple of days that did not produce.  I buried the hole but am thinking about digging it out again next spring…we’ll see, it won’t be the first time I buried that hole and then dug it out again! 😉

I believe everything I was finding was Miarolitic Cavities as opposed to pegmatite vugs.  For the most part these these were right at the boundary between the roots and harder rock about 8 – 18 inches below the surface.  Joe Dorris has a nice description of these on his website.  I also found, digging in old unfilled abandoned holes, several deeper pockets filled with thick red clay and some crystals.  I’m assuming these are more “vug” type structures in the pegmatites.  That red clay is definitely a mess!

Highlights of the hole I was digging in were the many large double terminated crystals my dad found on the first day of snow in Colorado this year.  Also some really nice orthoclause crystals, one which is multicolored in squares.  We found nice smoky quartz crystal heads from sub-inch to about 4 inches in all different quality.  Some were nice large “gemmy” color…the further south you get the darker the crystals it seems here in Colorado.  I have a cigar box full of small crystals, and several larger individuals and a few crystals on harder matrix/feldspar.

Here are the fruits of my (and Hunter’s) labor on my second day in my hole.  We found a pocket that I could stick my hand into which was very exciting, that seemed more like a small vug/pocket as it was surrounded by very hard rock.  Most of the small crystals came from a pocket about a foot higher, likely a Miarotilic Cavity?

This is the same hole but the next time I went with my dad.  It was snowing so hard that we ended up having to leave we were so cold…

These were some of the best crystals to come out of this hole.  My dad was digging and extracting the bigger crystals and I was taking my new screen I just bought at the Gem and Mineral show the day before to sift for “smaller” ones.

On my last day in this hole of 2009, I found several small pockets along the root/rock line parallel to a quartz-ish vein about a foot away from the vein.  That afternoon I dug for about 5 hours and found nothing, so I need to determine if this spot is worth continuing with next year.  This is the coolest thing when you pull off a rock and see a “hole”.  Sometimes they pan out, sometimes they don’t.

Here is another pocket I found.  I would just run my hand along the top of this hole loosening the dirt/rock and the cleared out base would be filled with rock and crystals.  This is a common way I pull these smaller points out of the ground.

2009 was  blast and I got hooked on finding smokeys.  We have joined the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society and plan to learn a lot this year and go on several digs, including the private claims that the society works.  My number 1 goal is to better understand how to find geological features that will tell you where a good place to dig is; that is the hardest part so far in my experience.

Oh, and sometimes, a rock falls onto your hand and there is a crystal on top of it.  This happened twice this year.  That was nice slender half-dollar sized crystal!