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

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

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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…

 

Pikes Peak Batholith Blue Amazonite and Smoky Quartz

Cinco De Mayo, 2014.

Went up picking as tradition on Cinco De Mayo and had some luck eventually finding blue amazonite and smoky quartz crystals.  I was prospecting an area I’ve never been to before and wasn’t having much luck, after about 5 hours of nothing (and many miles of good exercise) I decided to check out somewhere else.  On the hike back to the car I found some float pegmatite that had a shade of “green” and I started digging (you’ll see examples in the video similar to what I saw).  After about an hour of digging test holes (about 2 feet deep) I hit some peg that looked promising and so I started to follow it.

I continued to hit color but only in what looked like a small crack.  The color didn’t seem to follow anything specifically, but generally the color was in a certain area so I continued to follow it.  Eventually I started to find crystals, most just sidewall or partial crystals with one or two flat sides, but that is a great sign so I continued.

I was about 1-2 feet down and following the peg when a seam started to open up and produce more traditionally shaped crystals.  The video shows several spots along the way including the largest opening in the seam which was probably a good 5-6 inches tall and a foot or so wide.  The seam continued producing smaller crystals and 1-2 sided microcline/amazonite for another 10 or so feet before it completely pinched out.  I continued for several hours in all directions but didn’t find anything else worth while.

The crystals were double-coated with iron oxide and a thin white milky quartz type coating.  This proved to be very difficult to clean up.  I started with Iron Out for 72 hours and then I used a 10% Phosphoric Acid solution in a low heated crock pot for over a month along with a water gun to chemically soak and chip away the coatings.  Several stones I was able to get most of the coatings off, but the blasting of hot chemical through the millennia in this pegmatite took its toll and etched many of the smoky quartz crystals and stained the amazonite. Where it has etched them the coating is very difficult to remove.

My favorite part of this dig, however, was that the sky blue Amazonite.  Not the typical green that you find in the area.  I have not yet invested time in creating cabochons but I suspect this amazonite will be gorgeous if used this way.  Thus, I didn’t clean but about 1/3 of the crystals I brought home figuring someday I’ll be grinding away the coatings and not worrying about the specimen quality of the stones.

This was a cool crystal, obvioulsy needs more soaking but will give you an idea of what has come off the rest of the crystal

This was a cool crystal, obvioulsy needs more soaking but will give you an idea of what has come off the rest of the crystal

Smoky Quartz Cluster

This was a cool cluster that was in the center of the largest part of the seam/pocket. Most of these are gemmy, and flipping it over they are mostly double terminated.

Smoky Quartz

The smoky quartz “teaser” from the video.

Microcline

I suspect this is amazonite, but I really liked the coating without any cleaning!

This Amazonite / Smoky Quartz combo was one of the several I found.  This was at the bottom of an opening that was not in the video.

This Amazonite / Smoky Quartz combo was one of the several I found. This was at the bottom of an opening that was not in the video.  Unfortunately 6 weeks in a hot acid bath didn’t clean it fully.

 

Pegmatite amazonite quartz

I like this one as it shows the quartz and amazonite starting to separate and form euhedral sides from the host graphic granite rock.

Smoky Quartz

This was the largest smoky quartz I found as seen in the video. I love the termination!

Amazonite facets

I really like this stone for the natural facets and the gorgeous sky blue color!

Large Blue Amazonite

Largest amazonite of the day, about 3.5 inches.

Parallel Growth Smoky Quartz

This parallel/stepped growth smokey quartz pair had a chunk of amazonite attached.

Many of the smoky quartz are gemmy, which I absolutely love the root beer color of this kind of quartz.  Likewise, I have saved many of these stones for faceting if I decide to pick up that part of the hobby.  I also procured many garden rocks.

Hiking out in the twilight it had been a very long day and I was exhausted, but deeply satisfied!

The bigger smoky quartz

The bigger smoky quartz (uncleaned)

The smaller smoky quartz

The smaller smoky quartz (uncleaned)