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!

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.

 

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…

 

Arkansas River Petrified Wood

Discovered some petrified wood while camping this last weekend.  We went camping in the Arkansas River valley across from Mt Antero, Princeton and Shivano.  Our secret private campsite at Ruby Mountain.  It was a muddy camp trip because of the monsoonal moisture, but that heavy rain helped cool it off in the evenings making for great camp sleeping!

I wanted to check out rocks in the Taylor Mountain / Missouri Hill area around some of the Marble and other quarries.  A fellow rockhound James was kind enough to give me some directions and advice on visiting this location, however he warned me that the road required a high clearance 4WD vehicle.  I went in our non-4WD knowing that I would probably have to park and walk a mile or two, however by the time I got up there the rains were coming in and I was running short on dry clothes.  I went almost to mile 4.5 of about 6 but eventually turned around and headed back down into the river valley.

I visit Ruby Mountain at least once per year and am not overly excited about the hard to find garnets and elusive topaz, and have more than enough apache tears from this location, so since I had a couple of hours left I decided to head down to Brown’s Canyon area as my only other visit several years back yielded nothing.  As described in Steve Voynick’s Colorado Rockhounding book, most of the side roads off of Chaffee County Road 194 past the private land lead to old Fluorspar mines.  I picked one side road and headed on a hike with my trusty Rock Hound Dog Boogie.

Boogie standing in the shade on this hot August day

Boogie standing in the shade on this hot August day

It was a hot day and we ended up at the mine which now is a nice makeshift gun range. It wasn’t that large of a reclaimed mine but I started to wander around and scout what was there.  I picked up many red, green, black and other cool colored stones that would I feel be great to tumble.  I found some fluorspar but nothing that great.  I was looking for smaller  fluorite crystals without any luck.  I did happen upon some agatized petrified wood and spent the rest of the hour or so I had looking for this.

Fluorspar mine in Browns Canyon

Fluorspar mine in Browns Canyon

Found a couple of really great camping sites while hiking as well; I hope to bring my kids back to this site someday and do some target practice, camping and more rockhounding!

The collection of nicer wood samples I found

The collection of nicer wood samples I found

Great texture and color in this sample

Great texture and color in this sample

Petrified Wood, love the way the wood grain turnson this one

Petrified Wood, love the way the wood grain turns and twists

Cool agatized petrified wood

Cool agatized petrified wood full of color!

Petrified Wood

Petrified Wood

Agatized petrified wood

Agatized petrified wood, the first rock I found this day

I love the detail on this piece of petrified wood

I love the detail on this piece of petrified wood

Random river rock with some cool patterns

Random river rock with some cool patterns

Cool river rock with Amethyst

Cool river rock with Amethyst

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!

Topaz Prospecting in the Rockies

I was able to attend a Lake George Gem and Mineral Club field trip to a private claim near Tarryall Mountain, one of the premier Topaz Prospecting areas in Colorado!  The area is steep and rocky which makes a good hike; with the side benefit of having an outstanding view!  We ventured up the mountain and I started a good day immediately in finding a topaz laying in the ground on the hike up the hill, albeit very small.  Then just a few minutes later I found another clear topaz, this time larger and clear enough to be a cutter stone!

Small piece of topaz found on the hike up.

Small piece of topaz found on the hike up.

Alluvial clear topaz I found on the hike up the hill.

Alluvial clear topaz I found on the hike up the hill.  Good enough for a small cut gem!

Once settled in near the top of the hill, I started to dig in an area that was previously dug to try and figure out what to look for.  I know that Topaz forms in standard pegmatite like the smoky quartz and microcline/amazonite that I dig in the Pikes Peak Batholith, but I usually don’t dig in such rocky places.  I dug a little uphill and in between two large rocks about 3″ deep in the sand out popped another topaz! This is the first one I have ever “dug”; everything else has either been on the ground or from excavator diggings at the Dorris’ Topaz Mountain Gem Mine. I dug for several hours more in this location and only pulled out a gemmy smoky quartz which was under a large (probably 100+ lb) rock I pried away.

Started digging and immediately pulled this out of the loose gravel.

Started digging and immediately pulled this out of the loose gravel.  Definitely a cutter!

I proceeded downhill and started digging in more clay filled dirt.  I found a couple of smoky quartz (not very good ones however).  I was meticulously going through the clumps of clay and I found a topaz completely concealed in one.  This was the last topaz I found, but it was a fully euhedral crystal with a slight blue color.  It wasn’t gemmy like the others, but specimen quality!

This topaz was covered in red clay/mud and the only reason I found it was I was thorough in checking each clump of mud.

This topaz was covered in red clay/mud and the only reason I found it was I was thorough in checking each clump of mud.

Throughout the day I found some very small but ultra gemmy smoky quartz and Hunter found a topaz on the ground (during the rain which illuminated it) on the way out, so we both had a great day!  I used a screen all day long but that didn’t produce any topaz; luckily topaz when exposed from the ground typically “pops out” at you and it is obvious what you’ve found.  I did have the one covered in clay that did not “pop”, however, so obviously screens and working clay is still necessary when prospecting for topaz.

Small but gemmy smoky quartz crystals

Small but gemmy smoky quartz crystals

I have been invited to visit another private claim in the area later in July, so hopefully I’ll have some more “wild dug” topaz stories soon…and of course later this summer/fall I hope to find my first Devils head topaz too!

The finds of the day...all relatively small but my first "hand dug" topaz I've ever found!

The finds of the day…all relatively small but my first “hand dug” topaz I’ve ever found!

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…

Red Feather Lakes area quartz crystals

Spent the weekend with my folks at Red Feather Lakes and had a wonderful time.  It was too windy to fish, although the lakes/ponds were recently stocked with 12-18″ golden trout I hear; but instead dad and I took a walk to a previous spot we had found and dug in a small quartz vein.

Dad started off the day prospecting a little and came up with a nice set of binoculars that someone had dropped a ways off of the trail.  I’d say he got the best crystals of the day!  LOL!

The vein we worked had graphic quartz with more course larger quartz chunks away from the seam.  I am new to this type of digging, I’m used to digging in pegmatite so I was digging around testing out the whole area.  The whole area was filled with sticky red clay making it slow going.

Right away we found the seam that we ran into last time and the largest crystal was one of the first we pulled out.  Gave us false hope for others that size; but kept us digging for nearly 4 hours.  The clay made finding crystals a little more difficult than normal as you had to work each rock that came out.  The seam appeared to pinch out on each side of our two foot hole; but I suspect there was more in the area.

The crystals are white/drusy quartz and some started to get clear, but nothing to get over-excited about from a specimen perspective, but we did find many single euhedral crystals and several smaller plates.  No amethyst that the area is world famous for unfortunately; but we’ll continue to prospect the area and maybe someday hit some purple crystals.

Over all, an outstanding day digging with my dad, looking forward to the next time!

Nice cluster, many will need to be repaired. Obviously uncleaned.

Nice cluster, many will need to be repaired. Obviously uncleaned.

A small cluster of white quartz

A small cluster of white quartz

The pay out from today's 3+ hour dig. Uncleaned.

The pay out from today’s 3+ hour dig. Uncleaned.

The pay out from today's 3+ hour dig. Uncleaned.

The pay out from today’s 3+ hour dig. Uncleaned.  Arranged by Daphne!

 

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.

IMG_20140517_062637_299

Rockhounding Wigwam, Jefferson County Colorado

June 8, 2014.  I had the opportunity to visit a private claim with the Lake George Gem and Mineral Club in this famous Colorado locality in spring 2014.  The area and drive to the locality is beautiful; a stretch through the Hayman Fire burn area which occurred on this same date twelve years prior in 2002.

Wigwam area is in the heart of the Hayman Fire burn area.  This is 12 years later (to the day).

Wigwam area is in the heart of the Hayman Fire burn area. This is 12 years later (to the day).

Hayman burn area, June 2014.

Hayman burn area, June 2014.

The area is typical pegmatite digging; although it is several feet deep.  I ended up digging a few test holes but found no peg and only found float type material that didn’t pan out.  I started checking out natural washed tailings from previous digs and noted there was some amazonite in a certain area, so I started to dig in that general area.  After a while I started seeing stepped/parallel growth on top of quartz chunks mostly anhedral with some faces.  I tuned into where these were running finding a general seam and out popped some amazonite and quartz crystals that were really cool, in the soil no more than 8″ deep.  That seam pinched out but I came home with some really unique crystals.

The first crystal I found in this spot which prompted me to spend 5 more hours in this area!

The first crystal I found in this spot which prompted me to spend 5 more hours in this area!

Cool capped quartz with multiple growth periods, terminated on both ends.  Before the acid bath.

Cool capped quartz with multiple growth periods, terminated on both ends. Before the acid bath.

After the acid bath.

After the acid bath, about 3 inches long.

 

Awesome shaped amazonite euhedral crystal!

Awesome shaped amazonite euhedral crystal, about 4 inches wide!

My second visit was to see if I missed this seam going in any other direction.  After digging many hours I didn’t find any further remnants of the seam but in the general area there were many types of crystals–some partial amazonite crystals, some more quartz chunks with parallel type growth which in some cases grew bigger as the seam opened up slightly, and more clear quartz growths on other crystals or host rock.  I even found a fluorite crystal!  I pulled out very few euhedral crystals but there were some amazonite and milky quartz.

Awesome parallel growth crystal cluster from Wigwam locale.

Awesome parallel growth crystal cluster from Wigwam locale.

Shard of quartz with parallel growth tip.

Shard of quartz with parallel growth tip.

Awesome parallel growth where the seam opened up just a little bit allowing larger crystals to form.

Awesome parallel growth where the seam opened up just a little bit allowing larger crystals to form.

Cool clear fluorite!

Cool clear fluorite!

 

I call it "The Right Foot", awesome unique crystal!

I call it “The Right Foot” (due to it being found in the rightmost foot of my dig, among other obvious reasons), awesome unique quartz crystal!

It was fun to meet other members of the club and to visit this locality I’ve been meaning to pay a visit for years!