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…

 

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…

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)

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!

Prospecting Devils Head – Thanksgiving “Gobbler” Crystal Pocket

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

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

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

Book of Mica from the Double Quad Pocket Day #2

Book of Mica from the Double Quad Pocket Day #2

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

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

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

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

Smokies from the Gobbler Pocket - 2 days of excavation

Smokies from the Gobbler Pocket – 2 days of excavation

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

Some of the smokies from the Gobbler Pocket

Some of the smokies from the Gobbler Pocket

 

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

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

Repaired cool smokey

Repaired cool smokey

Smoky from the top plate of the Gobbler Pocket

Smokey from the top plate of the Gobbler Pocket

“Double-Quad” Quartz / Amazonite Pocket

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

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

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

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

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

The largest Faint amazonite / microcline euhdral crystal

The largest faint amazonite / microcline euhdral crystal

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

Great color, texture and shape to this smoky

Great color, texture and shape to this smoky

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

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

One of the smokies from the video

One of the smokies from the video

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

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

Cool smoky quartz from the video, love the coating!

Cool smoky quartz from the video, love the coating!

The "keepers" from the day

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

 

Devil’s Head Prospecting Trip – October 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Fun crystal seam at Devil's Head

Fun crystal seam at Devil's Head

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

3" Twinned Microcline, 4" Quartz and LARGE Microcline

Red Feather Lakes Crystal Hike

For the kids fall break I took a couple of days off of work and we visited my folks in Northern Colorado.  On Sunday morning my dad and I were talking about visiting Chicken Park where we have heard stories of Kimberlite Pikes (diamonds, we are in that part of Colorado), gold, Amethyst and other fun stories of the area.  Given that is a 20 minute drive from their house we decided to check it out.

Our journey was abruptly cut short, however, due to a road closure.  There was another way; but it would have been at least an hour drive so instead of turning around and heading home; we decided to check out another road; the only one available.  After a rough road we got out and took a hike.  A little while into the trail we came across some float that caught our attention and we decided to dig a little to see what we’d find.

Float that sparked our interest

Float that sparked our interest

Another float that started the digging...

Another float that started the digging...

Dad ran back to the truck to get the pick and rock hammer while I stayed and scoped the area out.  By the time he returned I had an idea where we should dig and we started.  We spent about an hour digging and pulled out a bunch of rough chunks with faces; almost all with crystallized formations showing.  I ended up finding some red clay and small crystal clusters started coming out.

Some nice crystals that we pulled from the red clay/mud

Some nice crystals that we pulled from the red clay/mud

Some of the clusters we pulled out

Some of the clusters we pulled out

These took me a while to clean up; the mud was really sticky.  We had to get home for lunch and so we left the diggings to come back the next day, a little more prepared to do some serious excavation; except it snowed six inches!  Oh well; my dad said he’d check it out further on some warm day–the luxuries of being retired!

Some chunks of quartz showing crystallization

Some chunks of quartz showing crystallization

Some of the nicer clusters; for dad's cabinet

Some of the nicer clusters; for dad's cabinet

A shot of the take home; most garden rock

A shot of the take home; most garden rock

All in all a wonderful hike with my dad and adventure on the mountain back roads in his area!  Hope to do this again soon!