Smoky Quartz and Amazonite Picking

Larger smoky quartz from this small pocket

These were some of the smoky quartz that would fall out of the pocket when I shook the tree roots. Some of the bigger quartz from the pocket

It has been a while since I’ve been up in the hills, but recently I _finally_ had a free day and I was able to hit the hills and prospect for some crystals.  This year has been somewhat slow for me so far, I’ve ventured up to dig for Amazonite and/or Smoky Quartz two times before and I had found just a small crystal or two in those days.  I also was prospecting way away from my normal places too, but you never know until you check it out!

This last outing, however, I went back to a spot I had luck with in years past as I wanted to dig down deeper.  I’ve been told by numerous folks that digging deeper around a seam or small pocket in the pegmatite often yields huge rewards, so I decided this was the day to expend some energy and find out.  I arrived at 6am and it was nice and cool so I started to trench out diagonally from where I had luck before.  I went about 3-4 feet deep working through some very hard rock to find nothing but gravel on the other side of the pegmatite.  I continued elongating the trench and was able to find some peg that was looking okay but it was producing nothing but hard work.  After 5 hours of digging I decided that down was not the source at this point and started to fill in the large hole.

One thing I also wanted to try at this spot was to follow the peg past where it appeared to pinch out when I was onto crystals in years past, so I went about 10-15 feet beyond in the general direction of the seam and started another probe hole.  Immediately I was pulling quartz chunks out but none with euhedral sides; they appeared to be float as they were in the deep organic matter.  I went down about 3 feet and finally started to hit the pegmatite!  It continued and I was happy to see it!  I trenched it for a while perpendicular to the peg and was pulling crystals out in the past, some some graphic peg appeared but nothing at all with facets.  The peg was rather thin at this point and nothing was in the gravel below.  I ended up with my trench into the roots of a tree and since there were no positive signs I decided to give the tree a break and not damage any of the roots.  So I filled in that hole and took a break as that was another 2 hours of hard work!

Double Terminated Smoky Quartz

This was the other quartz crystal in the center of the pocket. Neat double terminated crystal that is completely gemmy inside! Love that root beer smoky color!

Heart of the pocket

Heart of the pocket, double terminated crystal all cleaned up.

While eating lunch and taking a break, I noticed a rock that was on the other side of my tree that appeared to be buried pretty deep.  After eating I tried to pull it out but it wouldn’t give.  Interesting that on its side there appeared to be some quartz chunks so I got out the pick and dug it out.  It definitely had better shape than any of the peg I was in before lunch, so I started to dig around it.  The next rock had some green and I knew I was in the right spot.  In just a little while I was in the start of a seam with some nice smaller partially euhedral quartz and amazonite shards.  The peg was definitely different than the one I dug in previously so I continued uphill.

About a foot further down and up hill the peg opened up a little and in that opening I started to get more green shards of microcline and a larger quartz chunks.  One of the first quartz pieces I found was what looked like a tip of a larger crystal.  I see this all the time and I realized that I likely had a really big crystal in store up hill!  It was nearly at the other side of the seam/pocket, so it had fallen downhill several feet in the seam which was very interesting…Upon hitting a stump of an old burnt out tree I then discovered the small pocket.  Unfortunately my phone died and I didn’t have my regular camera so I can’t share any pictures of the digs, but as I dug through the large roots crystals started to appear.  The microcline was light amazonite and some crystals fit into the palm of my hand.  Upon shaking the roots crystals would fall into my hole below!  It was a quite fun pocket but it receded as quickly as it opened up.  Still I was able to get some good sized crystals and amazonite including a couple double terminated (one healed) smoky quartz.  I was dead tired by after 5pm (almost 12 hours digging) so I filled in all the holes completely and headed home.  Who knows, there could be more there (maybe dig down like the experts say?), I’ll have to check it out again some other time.

Colorado Amazonite Crystals

Uncleaned, straight from the Earth, some light colored Amazonite crystals

Amazonite

Soaked for a week in a hot oxalic acid bath, the powder blue color is nice–but no where as nice as the green further south.

Large smoky quartz with broken tip

As in nearly EVERY pocket I dig, I find a broken tip. This time, I was digging up hill and found the tip first. I knew that was a great sign and that I’d find its adjoining large crystal which made an exciting dig!

Smoky Quartz Cluster

Smoky quartz cluster that came out of the center of the pocket. Uncleaned.

Cleaned up cluster

Cleaned up smoky quartz cluster

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

July Rockhounding

July was a good month for Rockhounding for us; we did only a couple of trips, however, due to a busy summer with many other fun things on the weekends!  Both of my July trips were to Joe Dorris claims; the first was a makeup trip to the Topaz Mountain Gem Mine (originally with the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society, but with the Littleton club on this make up day) and the second was the famous Smokey Hawk claim with CSMS.  Both were in the Lake George area.  If you are interested in visiting either claim, contact Joe or Krystle.  Here is information on Visting the Topaz Mine.

The Smokey Hawk trip was a lot of fun; I found a bunch of small chips of really great colored Amazonite.  Joe stated that they had just opened a small pocket of incredible colored Amazonite but most of it was crushed.  He was thinking chemistry must have played a role in the color and condition of the Amazonite.  Perhaps we’ll see more in this year’s Prospector’s show.

I had recently tumbled some Amazonite chips I found in prior trips to the Smokey Hawk, so I decided to hit the tailings pile and see what I could find in the “trash” mounds.  Others went up to the hills and did some prospecting, and some did quite well (see Kevin’s Rockhounding blog).  I dug through rocks at the base of the piles (the stones tend to roll down to the bottom) and also walked around the piles themselves.  Although I didn’t find anything super spectacular from an Amazonite perspective, I did find many really dark blue/green colored chips, many with a face or two intact.  I also found a couple of larger chunks.

Dark rich colored Amazonite from the Smokey Hawk claim

Dark rich colored Amazonite from the Smokey Hawk claim

I was able to find a couple of nice Smokey Quartz crystals as well.  Most had a small flaw or two (mostly small chips).  I did find this Goethite crystal.  I’ve seen these in pictures with Amazonite/smokey quartz clusters.  I think these are great crystals; always funky but definitely pronounced crystal structure!  I’ve found 4 or 5 like this over the years; this one is one of the best!

Goethite crystal

Limonite after Stibenite crystal

The find of the day, however, came near the end of the day as a thunderstorm was encroaching on our fun!  I was digging in the tailings pile where there were some small funky Smokey Quartz clusters that a fellow club member turned me onto.  There was a small pocket embedded in an excavator bucket load that had some interesting items in the pocket mud/clay.  After rinsing when I got home, most ended up being pink microcline clusters, but one was a awesome gemmy Fluorite.  In the tailings nearby was also this small Fluorite cluster!

Back of gemmy Fluorite

Back of gemmy Fluorite

The back side of this was interesting as it appeared to be somewhat etched away from an original growth/phantom.  The color and gemminess of the stone is wonderful!

Gemmy Fluorite - a couple of fractures but clear and purple!

Gemmy Fluorite – a couple of fractures but clear and purple!

Near this I also found a small Fluorite cluster; what was interesting is the shape of the central crystal in this cluster…I will need to talk to an expert as this doesn’t appear to be normal shape for Fluorite.

Small Fluorite cluster

Small Fluorite cluster

In late July I took the kids to visit Krystle and the Topaz Mountain Gem mine.  Luckily it had a good rain in the days before the trip and we had significant luck just surface hunting.  As a matter of fact, only a couple small pieces came from our hard work digging all day!  My find of the day came as I was walking into the mine.  Along the entry road was a eroded area from the rains that had this awesome blue topaz stone just laying there on the surface, on a pedestal of dirt that was about to collapse due to erosion…just waiting for me to pluck it from the ground.  This picture doesn’t do it justice because it is very clear and you can mainly see the back side through the stone; but it is awesome to hold and stare into, and beautiful blue!

Alluvial Blue Topaz - 80 carat

Alluvial Blue Topaz – 80 carat

I wandered around with the kids but their eyes just weren’t finding the shapes and glass within the mud.  I pulled out several small chips and a few small stones; most were not cutters or specimens; but it was good that I was finding Topaz!  I dug for 5-6 hours in one of the piles left by the excavator and found only a super small chip and sherry stone which could cut into a 1-2 carat faceted stone…not sure if I want to do that or not…

Hunter and Daphne had a system figured out which was great.  Hunter was digging a hole in the top of the pile to create a volcano.  As he excavated dirt from that hole he slid it down a chute where Daphne was going through the dirt looking for Topaz.  Seemed like an efficient system; and they were making a volcano that later in the day was going to spit out Topaz all over for us to collect!  Unfortunately they didn’t find any Topaz with their system, but Hunter did find a really nice Smokey Quartz!

Hunter digging for Topaz while making a Volcano

 

Daphne sifting through the volcano core's dirt...

Daphne sifting through the volcano core’s dirt…

 

Hunter’s smokey with Topaz at the Sherry stone and blue to show the colorsOther than the Sherry this was the only other stone I found digging

The smokey was very dirty and we didn’t know until we got home that it had some topaz on it; so Hunter and Daphne were both really bummed they didn’t score a Topaz today. I told them both to just do what was the most successful and wander around and look for them on the ground. Daphne was done but Hunter decided to take my advice. A little while later he came running towards us; I knew he must have found something! He did; an awesome Topaz! All in all, it was a great day at the topaz mine.

Here are some of the other stones that I found.

Sherry stone and blue to show the colors

Sherry stone and blue to show the colors

On the way to the mine I purchased a vintage Synthesizer from a family in Florissant.  When I told her where we were going for the day; she stated she lived right in the area of the mine for many years.  She told me a story that the original homesteader Matakat used to grow potatoes on the land and often found topaz in them when harvesting!  Great lore for the area!

Other than the Sherry this was the only other stone I found digging

Another shot of Hunter's topaz

Another shot of Hunter’s topaz

 

I am looking forward to the rest of the summer and fall as I have many trips planned, including several locales that I have not been to before!  Stay tuned…

Cinco de Mayo 2013: A New Hope

Today was a great day and my second outing for the year, this time to the New Hope Amethyst lode claim as guests of the Canyon City rock club.  I was with the Lake George Gem and Mineral club , there were 5 or 6 clubs on this field trip.  Lots of eager Rockhounds wanting to get out find some amethyst quartz crystals!!  The day was slightly overcast which was perfect for a day of digging–bright but not too hot or sunny. I started the day doing some prospecting and walking around the claim and surrounding public lands.  I found some epidote in quartz/granite which was cool; but nothing else per se.  Richard, the field trip leader for the club, had given me a clue on where to find some calcite crystals so I went on a hunt for them.  I was able to find the area he mentioned; but obviously someone had been digging there already and I didn’t see the calcite crystals he mentioned.  The seam that had been dug out had some dried red clay and I figured I should see what that was about so I started digging in that carefully.  I ended up finding a small plate of small quartz points which was exciting (thanks to Carl Carnein for his help with identification).  Unfortunately the host rock was extremely brittle and even exercising great care it was hard to extract the plates without everything busting into tiny pieces.

Cute calcite cluster found in the maroon clay

Cute quartz cluster found in the maroon clay.  These will scratch glass.

I continued to dig into the clay and uncovered more small plates of quartz crystals, again they were very brittle but I was able to extract a couple 1.5 – 2″ pieces intact which was exciting!  Continuing into the pocket I the clay turned iridescent maroon colored and that is where I found a couple of really pretty plates, one, the back/side of the pocket was able to be extracted intact that was rather large, 4-5″ long.  Sweet! The below cluster was one of the intact small clusters which came from this area of the small pocket.

Calcite cluster without the coating of calcite

Quartz cluster that was pretty clean…

Awesome large cluster of calcite crystals intact!!

Awesome large cluster of quartz crystals intact!!

Once I got to the end of this small pocket I broke into a small but pretty smokey and amethyst quartz vein.  It quickly pinched out and I decided to see what everyone else was finding and relax for a little bit. Overall the calcite pocket was about 3-5″ high, 1-3″ wide and about 4″ deep at the largest points.

"Zipper" Vein of Smokey and Amethyst Quartz at the end of the Calcite pocket

“Zipper” Vein of Smokey and Amethyst Quartz at the end of the quartz pocket

Everyone was having luck about two feet deep digging an amethyst vein.  There was a lot of folks digging in a tight space so I decided to try and intercept the vein a little ways away from the crowd; 10 yards or so uphill.  I dug and dug in all directions but did not find the vein…it either made a significant turn, went further down than I was wanting to dig (which was 3+ feet!); or pinched out.  After a couple of hours I reclaimed my prospecting and just hung out and listened to everyone talk and enjoyed the stories and watching everyone find great little clusters.

Small amethyst, milky and smokey quartz clusters and points

Small amethyst, milky and smokey quartz clusters and points

I went through some of the tailings and found some cool little points, and after everyone was done they offered me a chance to dig in the excavated hole and I enjoyed about an hour of finding great small milky quartz covered plates before it was time to head home.  It was a wonderful day with great people; I’ve really enjoyed visiting this claim and appreciate the opportunity to do so!

Needs a little more scrubbing; beautiful amethyst quartz!

Needs a little more scrubbing; beautiful amethyst and smokey quartz!

Calcite crystals in close proximity to quartz vein

Quartz crystals in close proximity to quartz vein

 

More Devilshead – July 2012

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

I love the multi-color capped Microcline crystal!

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

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

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

July 14 – The famous Smoky Hawk Mine

It is always a treat to visit one of Joe Dorris’ mines; this day I took the kids and I up to the Smoky Hawk Mine as part of a Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society field trip.  My daughter had watched the New Crystal Hunters video of this mine and wanted to see it in person!

Joe had some safety fences to put up before we could see the pegmatite vein he had dug up with the excavator, so the kids and I hit the tailings piles.  We found a bunch of great smoky and amazonite crystals!!!

Hunter and Daphne found these crystals in the tailings piles

Amazonite crystals from the tailings piles

Once we were able to enter the pit, Joe showed us a pocket that he found.  He was pulling beautiful small plates and white-capped Amazonite crystals out of this.  Daphne and I worked that for a while and then gave it up to another rockhound so he could experience working in a world-class pocket!  Daphne and I worked along a perpendicular vein that showed amazonite but very little crystalization.  We did find this tiny fluorite with amazonite and I was able to get this whittled down for Daphne!

Daphne's fluorite and amazonite micro-crystal

Meanwhile Sharon (the club’s editor) dug into a lower pocket (maybe 5 feet underground) along the pegmatite vein that produce a LOT of really nice smoky/microcline plates!  She worked this pocket all day long and it produced some incredible plates!

Sharon's pocket of Microcline/Smoky plates

All this time the pocket Joe found was producing material, and it started to open up.  But, Yam also broke into some red clay and found yet another Amazonite/Smoky Quartz pocket.  I helped go through the pocket looking for excess crystals; there were a lot that came out of this pocket.

Crystals waiting to be plucked out of the ground

 

Crystals we were pulling out of this pocket: notice the shovel handle for reference.

Nice amazonite plate from the pocket - 8-10 inches long

Given that this was a combo pocket, Joe gets to keep it; but I did get a nice consolation parting gift for working on this pocket with Yam and Dave; a nice small (lighter colored) amazonite plate!  Awesome!  This has cleaned up nicely.

I was able to keep this awesome (but dirty) amazonite plate out of our pocket

We had a wonderful day (as always) at Joe’s mine, and some great stones and crystals as souvenirs.  Joe gave us each choice of a really nice crystal as we parted; I chose this white-capped Amazonite that he found earlier in the day.  Also, more from what we found in the tailings piles!

White cap amazonite crystal gift from the mine

Hunter's nice combo he found first thing

Smoky Hawk Tailings: One man's trash is another man's treasure

 

Devils Head: Friday the 13th

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

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

More shaped peg...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday the 13th's Devilshead stash!