The Leo Pocket – Large Colorado Smokey Quartz

The season of Scorpio often brings good luck to me in the Colorado Rockies, and this year I was treated with a special find (large quartz crystals)!  As most rock hounds probably experience, as you gain experience you think of old places you’ve dug and the potential for those spots still producing crystals now that you know what you didn’t during the original dig.

Leo Pocket Point

This otherwise drab (likely microcline) rock was coated with secondary crystal points. Really interesting growth pattern too.

There was a spot I found many years ago where I found a couple of floater crystals that were so-so and I abandoned that dig site prospecting for lusher areas.  I have always wondered, what if I dug deeper in that spot?  I didn’t think I dug deep enough but I always wondered if it would be worth the effort to try that area again as it was a bit of a hike with several steep hills.  So I have been thinking about this spot now and again over the years and I finally decided to prospect that area again.

In early November I went out on a crisp morning and found myself in the area of this dig.  I wasn’t having any luck prospecting, so I decided what the hell, I need to resolve this once and for all, so I hiked back to that spot.  I reclaim all my digs and after many years away they have grown back the ground cover and looked good, which was pleasing.  I ended up digging in the area that I had long thought about, and within about 30 minutes starting hitting some signs.

The area had some large rocks and as I dug around them I started to see some darker coloration, which ended up being pegmatite.  Digging into that started to produce some flats and faces and it wasn’t long before the first crystal popped out, maybe a foot underground and in a peg seam.  After the initial crystal I started to see the seam open up and then experienced some harder clay.  Only once have I hit a really thick clay, but I could tell right away that experience was happening again.

Leo Pocket plate

This plate came out in 3 pieces which is repaired above.  The main part of the plate was at the top of the pocket, as seen in the video. The left crystal had sunk to the bottom of the pocket after it was shattered off, you can see me pull it out in the video immediately before I pulled out the larger healed crystal toward the end.  The upper right piece was also at the bottom of the pocket.  It pays to save all pieces and parts.

Working in the clay requires metal tools, there is no way you can get it out with your fingers or even wooden material.  I have a dulled screwdriver just for these times.  I started to pull out quartz crystals but they were all heavily overgrown with a brownish, sharp milky quartz-type crystal.  It wasn’t coming off, that’s for sure, and I thought perhaps it would require a little soaking o loosen up the overcoating.  So I continued to dig and starting pulling out some really nice crystals, but it was VERY slow going and somewhat tedious on the fingers and wrists due to the clay.

As I continued to dive down with the pocket, the clay got thicker and the crystals got bigger!  It finally ended up where there were many large crystals all at the bottom of the pocket.  I could tell the pocket collapsed because I found bits and pieces of broken crystals in between these larger ones that matched up to crystal parts I was finding at the top of the pocket.

The crystals all have several stages of growth.  Most are coated with a brownish quartz like coating.  I could tell there was microcline in the pocket, but it appears to have all been corroded away and the replaced on all the smokey quartz throughout the pocket.  Must have been some acidic stuff in the pocket during its creation!

Leo Pocket Point

This crystal is typical of almost all crystals in this pocket. Multiple layers of additional growth on the original smokey quartz. It is very difficult to remove–this has been soaking in SIO baths for a while, and a water gun does nothing. I will attempt mechanical means as soon as I get that available to me. But the crystal is GEMMY inside!

Needless to say, these crystals are going to be VERY difficult to clean.  Super Iron Out has pulled some of the coating off; leaving behind a harder, sharp layer of quartz type coating.  I was able to shine a light through the side of a quartz, and the big crystals I found are all typically very gemmy inside–at least those I could peer into.  So I am looking into an abrasive solution to help make some of these large, beautiful smokey quartz crystals shine!

This was one of the largest pockets I have found, definitely the largest by far this year.

If you have any tips to help me clean these, I’d love to hear your suggestions.  Note that I put a couple of crap crystals in a beaker of fully concentrated muriatic acid and it did clear the brown off, the quartz-like coating did not get touched.

Leo Pocket micro crystals

This was on a very small piece that I am not sure why I brought home…typically if in question it comes home to get a rinse. It was covered with tiny crystals as seen in this macro shot!

Colorado Crystals – The Boogie Pocket

Crystal digging time has been limited this summer, however I was able to make it out several times this fall having several successful days!  This day in late September I was able to find a fun smokey quartz and light amazonite pocket.  There was an antler my dog found that he enjoyed all day long; the cool part is where he found it!  Investigating the area he led me to showed some promising signs on the surface.  I dug a few test holes and eventually found a crystal pocket!  I feel it thus is appropriate that I named the pocket after him (his name is Boogie)!

Beginning of Boogie Crystals Pocket

Boogie chawing on a an antler near my test hole, which ended up in a couple small pockets

At the point of the antler, there was a few quartz and feldspar chunks laying on the ground.  Digging a test hole there, I found a couple of pieces of float pegmatite within the first 5 inches so I followed the float peg up the hill.  Its always a good sign when you can follow a path of float rocks up a hill, especially if there are euhedral sides, which in this case there were not any flats.  A short while (maybe 5 feet) later uphill the peg stopped showing up at the float level.  Often this sudden stoppage of float material means that whatever was producing the float is back downhill.

Going back down the hill a few feet, I dug deeper and found more peg!  Following that led me to the host peg which started maybe 8 inches below the surface. It looks like I found the source!!!  Now, hopefully the peg chunks will start having flat faces and become more crystallized ending in a seam or a pocket!

In this hole, digging down, I was able to hit the bottom of the peg seam where it turned into crumbles of granite gravel.  Going up hill I ended back into gravel, so I feel I found the girth of this pegmatite seam.  That said, nothing interesting was presenting itself, yet…

Next, I followed the peg from side-to-side.  Within about 30 minutes I found a few nice terminated quartz crystals and a few smaller pieces.  This is documented in the first few minutes in the video, below.  The quartz ended as soon as it started, however, and I ended up on a fruitless dig in that direction for about an hour longer…that is typical of me, when I find crystals I go in that direction for an extra long time just to be sure; someday I’ll figure out when to stop earlier…or not.

Next step was to take a break and eat lunch.  After looking at what I had dug and the size of the pegmatite from different perspectives I figured there was only one choice, to stay on this peg which had produced quartz crystals and dig the other way.  Soon after digging that way I was pulling out some quartz and microcline with sides, and finally some microcline crystals.  This is where the video continues.

The pocket contained a lot of chunks of microcline/light blue amazonite but none were fully euhedral, until the very end which contains a big 5″ crystal in three pieces.  Many of the crystals were good size and had many faces.  All were heavily coated in iron oxide. I did find some quartz too, especially in the center and lower parts of the pocket.  The quartz had interesting staining, all having a secondary coating of grey/white quartz on their tips, and then on 3 of the faces horizontal lines of the same secondary coating while on the other three faces heavily iron oxide stained.  They all had similar coatings and stain patterns which I found interesting!

The find of the day was a smokey quartz and cleavelandite combo, a 4-5 inch smokey quartz with excellent patterns in the secondary coatings and staining, and a 5″ wide light amazonite crystal at the bottom of the pocket.

cleavelandite and quartz

Cleavelandite and Smokey Quartz combo with mica sprinkled around it. The quartz has a secondary coating of quartz.

Almost all the quartz had a secondary coating of milky quartz on top and the amazonites and microclines were heavily coated with iron oxide.  There was a very large 5″ amazonite at the bottom of the pocket which was in three pieces, but they fit back together nicely.  All have been in the cleaning bath for a while and have yet to clean up to my liking, except a few in which the staining adds to the color and character!  I’m working on abrasive methods and hopefully will have cleaner pictures to show soon.

large amazonite crystal

Large amazonite (light blue) found at the bottom of the pocket in 3 pieces. Undergoing a lengthy super iron out bath.

Light amazonite with mica

Light amazonite with mica still heavily stained after many weeks in a SIO bath. From the video.

Smokey Quartz pair

Cool pair of smokey quartz showing the parallel growth and quartz caps

Quartz point overgrowth

A couple of the smokey quartz showing the overgrowth of quartz on the points.

largest boogie smokey

Largest smokey quartz from the pocket. I’m done cleaning it as I really like the lines and their parallelism to the crystal faces. This is shown in the video.


2009 Crystal Hunting in Review: Devils Head

In retrospect, I had a great year digging at Devil’s Head in the Pike National Forest.  Firstly, I can  be digging in about 65 minutes from starting the car here at the house.  Nothing like being close to the action!  2009 was definitely a beginner’s year for me and I learned quite a bit.  I also got quite lucky (and unlucky).

I ended up finding a spot (luck!) that produced right away.  I visited that hole about 6-7 times this fall.  Most days were good; but there were a couple of days that did not produce.  I buried the hole but am thinking about digging it out again next spring…we’ll see, it won’t be the first time I buried that hole and then dug it out again! 😉

I believe everything I was finding was Miarolitic Cavities as opposed to pegmatite vugs.  For the most part these these were right at the boundary between the roots and harder rock about 8 – 18 inches below the surface.  Joe Dorris has a nice description of these on his website.  I also found, digging in old unfilled abandoned holes, several deeper pockets filled with thick red clay and some crystals.  I’m assuming these are more “vug” type structures in the pegmatites.  That red clay is definitely a mess!

Highlights of the hole I was digging in were the many large double terminated crystals my dad found on the first day of snow in Colorado this year.  Also some really nice orthoclause crystals, one which is multicolored in squares.  We found nice smoky quartz crystal heads from sub-inch to about 4 inches in all different quality.  Some were nice large “gemmy” color…the further south you get the darker the crystals it seems here in Colorado.  I have a cigar box full of small crystals, and several larger individuals and a few crystals on harder matrix/feldspar.

Here are the fruits of my (and Hunter’s) labor on my second day in my hole.  We found a pocket that I could stick my hand into which was very exciting, that seemed more like a small vug/pocket as it was surrounded by very hard rock.  Most of the small crystals came from a pocket about a foot higher, likely a Miarotilic Cavity?

This is the same hole but the next time I went with my dad.  It was snowing so hard that we ended up having to leave we were so cold…

These were some of the best crystals to come out of this hole.  My dad was digging and extracting the bigger crystals and I was taking my new screen I just bought at the Gem and Mineral show the day before to sift for “smaller” ones.

On my last day in this hole of 2009, I found several small pockets along the root/rock line parallel to a quartz-ish vein about a foot away from the vein.  That afternoon I dug for about 5 hours and found nothing, so I need to determine if this spot is worth continuing with next year.  This is the coolest thing when you pull off a rock and see a “hole”.  Sometimes they pan out, sometimes they don’t.

Here is another pocket I found.  I would just run my hand along the top of this hole loosening the dirt/rock and the cleared out base would be filled with rock and crystals.  This is a common way I pull these smaller points out of the ground.

2009 was  blast and I got hooked on finding smokeys.  We have joined the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society and plan to learn a lot this year and go on several digs, including the private claims that the society works.  My number 1 goal is to better understand how to find geological features that will tell you where a good place to dig is; that is the hardest part so far in my experience.

Oh, and sometimes, a rock falls onto your hand and there is a crystal on top of it.  This happened twice this year.  That was nice slender half-dollar sized crystal!