2015 Denver Gem and Mineral Shows

Was able to break away from our busy schedule and make a trip to Denver for a couple of the Denver Mineral Shows. As always we head to the Merchandise Mart for Zinn’s show as this is where all the display cases are. I have included many photos from these cases as there were some outstanding specimens on display this year. We also went to the Colosseum Show. I find that I don’t buy too many minerals, especially ones that I can find locally here in Colorado. Instead, I tend to focus spending my money on literature, display mounts and tools. I bought a subscription to the Mineralogical Record and man these are amazing journals! I suspect, although pricey, I’ll be a subscriber for a while. In the January/February 2015 issue on the fantastic Pederneira Mine in Brazil I learned much about pegmatites, some information relevant to where I dig!

Here are some of the cool minerals displayed in the specimen cabinets at the main show. Obviously a small selection as there were tons (literally) of beautiful and amazing minerals on display, just some that caught my eye. Many are Colorado or close-to Colorado specimens, a bit of scouting as I may pay a visit to those localities in the upcoming years!

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Pickin’ Red Feather Lakes Quartz

My dad, son and I had the opportunity to go on a rockhounding club field trip with the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society as guests of the Flatiron Mineral Club to a set of private claims near Red Feather Lakes in Northcentral Colorado.  Red Feather Lakes is known for some of the best Colorado Amethyst found and also clear quartz, and a few miles north high quality industrial grade diamonds!  Today we were digging for Red Feather Lakes quartz.

Here are a couple of past expeditions to the RFL area:

There were a couple of claims that we could visit so we had a choice of what we wanted to do this field trip!  Some of us stayed at the first claim the claim owner walked us to in hopes of bigger quartz crystals and clusters (but much more effort) while others went to a smaller claim that had abundant smaller clear quartz crystals that were much easier to find.  Hunter and I chose the first claim with more digging effort and a longer walk while my dad chose to check out the other smaller claim, eventually coming back and getting the best of both worlds.

Hunter is not much of a digger and has a keen eye for float, so he set off right away and started scouting the claim.  Meanwhile, I love to dig so that I did.  I found a couple of crystals within the top foot of soil and found some quartz veins that didn’t produce anything noteworthy.  Hunter found a very nice float cluster right away bringing up everyone’s confidence that there is good stuff in the area.  Meanwhile, the trip leader, Charlotte, was no more than two feet next to me and started hitting nice crystals as she opened up a seam.

Hunter's quartz cluster.

Hunter’s quartz cluster.

Just after Hunter gave us all a jaw-dropping moment, I hit a nice phantom with white quartz with a secondary period of crystallization of clear quartz.  So the father and son duo were not skunked and finding crystals right away!  Cool!

Nice phantom white quartz under the secondary growth of clear quartz

Nice phantom white quartz under the secondary growth of clear quartz

Soon there after Charlotte started pulling out really nice crystals from her seam she was excavating.  I can’t image getting bored of pulling crystals out of a pocket, but Charlotte wanted to ensure that everyone had a chance to pull out some nice crystals showing her kindness and generosity as the trip leader.  So many of us took turns at pulling out crystals from her pocket! 🙂  I found a really nice double terminated cluster, but I had to give that to Charlotte as a memento from the pocket she discovered!  I pulled out some great points and a couple small clusters!

Uncleaned quartz crystal from Red Feather Lakes

None of the quartz has been cleaned yet; I have a handful that are in the acid bath queue.

Interesting crystal form

Interesting crystal form

Large quartz, I cannot find the two crystals that were once next to this.

Large quartz, I cannot find the two crystals that were once next to this as seen by the matrix bottom.  This was the last crystal I pulled from the seam as it was opening up into the main part of the pocket (of course we didn’t’ know that yet!)

Meanwhile my dad returned from the other claim with many nice small clear crystals.  It became his turn and he was able to pull crystals out as the pocket bottomed out.  He was able to keep several amazing clusters from the pocket that kept giving!

Red Feather Lakes quartz cluster

Wonderful cluster from near the end of the pocket. My dad extracted this and another similarly amazing cluster

Dad has some nice crystals and when he gets some photos I will upload them here.  Meanwhile, I took some shots before I left; he has a couple of nice pieces of matrix that hopefully he has the crystals to repair to make a couple more stellar clusters!

Great quartz crystals from Red Feather Lakes Colorado

Both amazing clusters, quickly washed with the garden hose.

Gotta love the fall colors while enjoying the forest and rockhounding in Colorado!

Gotta love the fall colors while enjoying the forest and rockhounding in Colorado!

All in all it was an incredibly fun day meeting many great folks from the Flatirons Mineral Club!  I hope to be able to dig with these folks again in the future!  Thanks to the owner of the claims for making this a fantastic rockhounding adventure in Colorado!

Red Feather Lakes Quartz

My turn at Charlotte’s Pocket pickin’ Red Feather Lakes quartz crystals.

 

Rockhound’s Guide to Identifying Federal Mining Claims

Federal Mining Claims are granted to US Citizens for the purpose of extracting the minerals for commercial gain.  Rockhounding does not require a mining claim, however Rockhounds cannot mineral trespass on active mining claims.

The BLM’s Guide to Rockhounding is helpful for defining the general rules and responsibilities for Rockhounding.  The BLM’s Guide to Mining Claims defines the claim owner’s responsibility to clearly mark their claim so that Rockhounds have the ability to know where they can dig.  As part of maintaining a claim, the claim owner has to agree to erect corner posts/markings on the claim site:

The undersigned testifies all monuments required by law were erected upon the subject claim(s), and all notices required by law were posted on the subject claim(s) or copies thereof were in place, and at said date, each corner monument bore or contained markings sufficient to appropriately designate the corner of the claim to which it pertains and the name of the claim(s).

Note that a mining claim only grants mineral rights to the claim owner, it still is public land and unless there are dangers (which will be clearly marked) citizens still can use our land.

In my prospecting I have seen several types of markings for Federal Mining Claims.  As a rockhound I appreciate when the claim owner posts documentation on each of the corner posts with GPS coordinates so I can quickly identify the claim boundaries in my GPS unit.  I appreciate when on the road into the claim or near pits/digs there is an obvious posting on a tree stating that the area is claimed.  I’ve seen center/side posts erected which is helpful too!  The easier the claim owner makes it to let the Rockhound know where the claim is the easier it is to not have accidents.

Corner post including paperwork on this federal mining claim

Corner post including paperwork on this federal mining claim

That said, I know that many times claim markers are tampered with, sometimes completely removed.  I have talked with many claim owners that have to deal with marking their claims over and over again because the markers are removed or vandalized.  Thus, I have learned how to do a little extra research before I head out to help me know when there are claims in the area that I will be prospecting.

When prospecting an area I always look for claim markers and signs, and if I find a place I want to get serious about digging I typically pull off the pack and take a walk around looking for corner posts in one direction.  A little internet research ahead of time will also help in knowing how much hiking I want to do to ensure I’m not on a claim.

The BLM provides Federal Mining Claim information online for free at LR 2000 website. If you look at the BLM Mining Claim packet, and their online help, they recommend to use the Pub MC (Mining Claim) Geo Report.  This report requires that you know a little bit about the area you want to search, specifically the MTR or Meridian Township Range, the Administration State, and the Case Disposition (Active, Closed, etc).  So as an example, I will show how I would identify active claims at one of my favorite areas in Colorado, Devils Head.

For this example, I already know the Administration State (Colorado) and Case Disposition (Active), but I need to find the MTR(s) that I want to research.  I do this by visiting another BLM site GeoCommunicator.  From the menu on the left side of the webpage I choose Interactive Maps and then All Layers.  A map displays allowing me to drill into the area I am interested in.  I then use the toolbar to choose the Identify option.

After zooming in, I choose the Identify icon in the toolbar

After zooming in, I choose the Identify icon in the toolbar

Then I click on the map to identify the Township where I’m interested in.  You can click the checkbox in the information box and it will outline the entire township visually.

Clicking somewhere on the map places the marker, then I check the Township box to show the township where you are researching federal mining claims

Clicking somewhere on the map places the marker, then I check the Township box to show the township where you are researching federal mining claims

I then repeat for as many townships as I want to research in the LR2000 database.

I continue to identify spots and check its Township until I have all the areas I want to research for federal mining claims

I continue to identify spots and check its Township until I have all the areas I want to research for federal mining claims

 Now I have 6 townships that I want to research identified.  The format is (for example the lower left):

  • State:  CO
  • Meridian:  06
  • Township:  10 South
  • Range:  69 West

Now I can enter the required fields in the Pub MC Geo Report on the LR 2000 website. The first thing I do on the LR2000 Reporting website is to select the criteria I want to use.  Obviously you don’t get a choice with State and Case Disposition, but for the other required field I choose MTR (Meridian, Township & Range) and then click the Select Criteria button.

I choose the MTR option for reporting, which is the most general requirement for researching federal mining claims database

I choose the MTR option for reporting, which is the most general requirement for researching federal mining claims database

Click the Set button to set each of the criteria.  For the MTR, you use the drop-down to select Meridian (06 – 6th PM) and then enter your Township (plus direction from the list) and Range (plus the direction from the list) and click the Add to MTR List button.  Do this for each of the MTRs you want to research, in my case I chose all six I found on the GeoCommunicator site.  NOTE, if you want to select multiple dispositions (for example, active and closed, hold the CTRL key and click all the options you want).

Select the state (CO) and disposition (ACTIVE) and then use the tool to add the MTRs

Select the state (CO) and disposition (ACTIVE) and then use the tool to add the MTRs

Now it is time to run the report by clicking the Run Report button.  I have noticed you may have to click it again if the pop-up window does not show up.  NOTE that this site uses pop-ups, so ensure that your pop-up blocker doesn’t suppress the report output window!!!  You will see a pop up with all your selected criteria and then another window will appear with all the claims in the area.

Ensure all values are uppercase, and click ok to run the report against the BLM's Oracle/Hyperion database.

Ensure all values are uppercase, and click ok to run the report against the BLM’s Oracle/Hyperion database.

The output doesn’t tell you the GPS coordinates of the claim, but it will tell you the Section and Subdivision along with the claim’s details including MTRS, name, serial number and information about the claim holder.  If you refer back to the GeoCommunicator website, the identify information “window” will let you drill into detailed information that will say what Section (the ‘S’ in MTRS) your identified point is in.

Pressing the Identify link (highlighted) will take you to more detail on this location.

Pressing the Identify link (highlighted) will take you to more detail on this location.

Click on the PLSS tab to see the section (the 'S' in MTRS) that your location is on.

Click on the PLSS tab to see the section (the ‘S’ in MTRS) that your location is on, in this example section is 029.  You will see this in the LR2000 database (if recorded) to know if your location on the map is in the same section as the claim.

As far as I have found, this is as detailed as you can get, but it will get you in the ballpark of where the claim(s) exists; and then you can visit the area in person and identify the claim by the corner posts that should clearly identify the claim name and which corner post you are looking at.

Please comment if you have other useful ways to identify federal mining claims.  Happy Rockhounding!

Prospecting Topaz near Pilot Peak

I was invited to prospect Topaz with an experience prospector, James, on his Topaz Claim near Pilot Peak about half way between Tarryall and Lake George, Colorado. Pilot Peak is likely one of the best Topaz localities in Colorado!  I have found topaz in this area before and was excited to learn more about prospecting topaz in the hopes that I can utilize this information to find that elusive stone in my favorite collecting areas around Devil’s Head.

Looking towards Pilot Peak, this area is jammed pack of claims. The only one (periodically) open to the public is the Topaz Mountain Gem mine.

Looking towards Pilot Peak, this area is jammed pack of claims. The only one (periodically) open to the public is the Topaz Mountain Gem mine.  On the eastern face of these peaks is the Lost Creek Wilderness.

Here are some links to prior topaz days around this area:

We started the day finding the claim’s corner points (and posts, which are required on all active mining claims) and James showed me some areas of interest that he had in his earlier prospecting trips.  The first spot we happened upon was where there were nice signs of pegmatite on the surface, some rocks had quartz with flat sides which is always a great sign!  We dug here for a little while but couldn’t find anything interesting in the area. We dug uphill a little ways but still nothing similar to what we found on the ground. Perhaps this was a little seam left over from long ago  that was then above the surface level and has been sitting on top of the ground since?  Perhaps we just missed the small area?  Regardless, nothing was found in this area although I definitely feel that the area is worth more consideration and putting down test holes.

Float that was worth checking out.

Float that was worth checking out.

Some "sides" in the pegmatite in the float that is a great sign

Some “sides” in the pegmatite in the float; that is a great sign

In another spot we found a seam of finer grained granite (aplite) with some pegmatite. Following the aplite seam around we found a couple of spots that opened up; one into a small pocket (that someone before us had cleaned out).  Although we didn’t find anything worth keeping, it was great to see these signs.  I also experienced that pounding with chisel into granite is a lot of hard work!

 Seam with pegmatite. We found nothing, but did some screening of the dirt around this.

Seam with pegmatite. We found nothing, but did some screening of the dirt around this.

Small pocket in the seam.

Here was the small pocket (with iron/red dirt). This vein flowed for about 100 feet.

Solid granite with pegmatite seam

Pegmatite lined this solid granite boulder, once part of the massive granite outcrop. White quartz with no signs of crystals.

We did quite a bit of hiking around the 20-acre claim area, which includes steep terrain filled with bushes and aspen trees, boulders big and small are everywhere.  There was a lot of up and down traversing the claim and by the end of the day we were exhausted, good news is it was awesome exercise!  The greatest part of climbing these hills was the magnificent views–part of the fun when prospecting the Colorado Rocky Mountains!

Cool cliffs in this area

Cool cliffs in this area

Looking south west towards the South Platte River

Looking south west towards the South Platte River

Large balance rock

Large balanced boulder!

Cool balanced rocks

Cool balanced rocks

Looking East. The Front Range is out there somewhere...

Looking East. The Front Range is out there somewhere…

Again thanks to James for all the information and fun day on his claim!  I learned quite a bit about topaz prospecting!

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

North Table Mountain Zeolites Field Trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is an Analcime crystal.

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

Some Thomsonite on Analcime.

Here is the vug that my dad broke into.

And the other side of the small vug…

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

http://jeffco.us/parks/rules-and-regulations/natural-resources-collection/ 

C.7. Collection of Natural Resources

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

Fine: $100.00

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

Rattlesnake in the trail on North Table Mountain

Rattlesnake in the trail on North Table Mountain

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

Parking area for North Table Mountain Quarry trailhead

Parking area for North Table Mountain Quarry trailhead on Easley Road

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

Directions to North Table Mountain Quarry

Directions to North Table Mountain Quarry

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