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!

Topaz Mine: July 7th with early monsoon

Had the opportunity to go on another open dig this year at the Topaz Mountain Gem Mine operated by Glacier Peak Mining.  As many know we’ve had some serious drought this year and has aided to many forest fires.  We have gotten some relief with an early monsoonal flow pattern with the weather and have had several days of heavy rain; one day which was at this mine.  I got there at 8:30 and a few people were already there.  We all were just walking (crawling) around and looking for topaz that were laying on the top of the soil that had been washed off; in the early morning sun they were pretty easy to spot.  I found several small fragments and others found some killer stones just laying on the surface; but after about 30 minutes of combing the area I decided to start digging…because that is what I do.

I had to move off a muddy layer (about 4-6 inches) on a pile to get to dry gravel to be able to start raking.  The first 90 minutes or so was simply to get “set up”.  I did not find anything raking so I tried my hand at sifting.  I was going through a lot of material but still nothing!  So I decided to start working like I do when I dig for Smoky Quartz and Amazonite and use a shovel and scrape small amounts off into a hole and watch the dirt as it falls.  I immediately started having luck with this technique and found a nice stone.  So I did this in combination with raking and sifting the rest of the day and found a good stone about every 45 to 60 minutes.  I had a great day; this is uncommon to find so many nice stones but I was moving through a lot of dirt too–which I found is the key.

I found the following topaz next; it was a shiny object in the wall of the hole I was digging.  This one was cool because it appeared it had grown around a Smoky Quartz crystal originally.  It had several fractures and would not be a cutter; but it is beautiful none-the-less.  Of course, holding it is memorizing and the picture doesn’t do it justice!

This beautiful specimen had great facets and indentation from a smoky quartz.

I continued and found a couple of more stones; one that *may* be a cutter.  It started to sprinkle and you could hear the mean thunder echo through the valley of storms that were forming and passing directly to our Northwest; I assumed we’d have rain and the day would be cut short so I didn’t want to stall and take lunch so I kept digging.  About 3:00 or so I dug into a another nice clear topaz that had mostly faceted sides.  It is simply beautiful and although it could be a nice cut stone I’m going to have a hard time giving it up for cutting as it is just too spectacular as Gaia produced it!

This is a spectacular faceted clear topaz!

The sun went away behind the storm clouds and it started to get darker as the storm clouds bellowed and became more dense.  I kept thinking “just one more” and I’ll be done; you know how that usually goes!  I decided since a few folks were still there I’d continue as long as I could.  A bolt of lightning struck withing 1/2 mile and I decided it was time to go; but immediately after I was shook by the bolt a found the find of the day.  What a perfect ending to such a fun and lucky day!  It was a 105 carat sherry stone.  This stone also had remnants of being grown against other crystals and it had a nice area that was fracture free and likely could be cut.  Upon checkout, Krystle didn’t want to give this stone up but luckily I took some extra cash and she was gracious enough to let me have it!  I definitely will get this cut and will post a picture when I receive it…it *will* be beautiful!

Fantastic Sherry Topaz

One other great part of the day is that I was able to find many smoky quartz crystals too; a couple were large points and one really nice crystal!  All in all, was one incredible day at the mine; I met a couple of really great folks and hopefully will get the chance to dig there again this year!  Krystle was correct; I did have a productive day (and year so far for that matter!); hopefully future visits will yield one or two of these and I’ll call it a successful day!

Found some great smoky quartz points today too

This pile includes stones from the bag of topaz I purchased as well; the kids got to sift through the bag when I got home!

Topaz Mountain Gem Mine - July 7th, 2012 Open Dig! I did quite well!


Devilshead Rockhounding – September 2011

Did a bunch of prospecting this trip with my dad; we started by finding some nice large float pieces but could not find the source of these; which could have been a road.  We ate lunch and then ran upon this spot which had been excavated prior; but we saw a couple of signs of Amazonite so we decided to dig.  I was finding “okay” Amazonite crystals and my dad was working the larger pegmatite next to an existing hole.  Dad finally ran into a small side pocket off of the side and pulled out some of the nicer, large smokeys of the day!

I found relatively few crystals but several faint Amazonite parts and so was having a good time.  The Amazonites came from the hole above my head shown in the next picture.  A few days later I came back and found a bunch of smokys in the unearthed area above my head into the side of the hill.  The grey circle is where I finished the day and found the nice plate shown below.

Excavating Devilshead smokey crystals and Amazonite

Amazonites (uncleaned) from the first day at this location

Devilshead September 25, 2011

Devilshead smokeys

Here is the plate from the small seam; it was neat to see how the seam opened up and the signs in the rock as that happened. Thanks to my dad for uncovering much of this evidence! That was hard work!  The piece needs clean and trimmed; currently it is about 10 inches wide!

Find of the day, this plate with Amazonites and Smokies

July 9th Smoky Hawk Claim trip with Fort Collins Rockhounds club

I had the opportunity to visit the famous Smoky Hawk claim with Joe Dorris with the Fort Collins Rockhounds club.  Joe allowed us to dig in some recently excavated material and also in the piles of tailings.

Beautiful view from up here; Haymen Fire burn boundry

A look up at the reclamation area that was on the New Crystal Hunters video

I right away started digging on some quartz in a pegmatite vein and found some small pockets; filled with small coated Amazonite, Smoky Quartz and Fluorite crystals. Even though these were all very small (probably biggest Fluorite was an inch) it was fun playing in the small pockets and collecting mostly Fluorite and Amazonite which both have been elusive for me!

Some of the Fluorites found in the small pockets

Went on to dig in the tailings piles and found many cool Amazonite crystals for the rock garden and also a nice Fluorite!!! Had a great day and learned a ton!

Small Amazonite clusters from inside the pockets

One of the nicer Amazonite crystals from the tailings

Killer Fluorite crystal found in the tailings

Father’s Day Weekend Devils Head Dig-a-thon

I had a earned day off on Friday of Father’s Day weekend and so I decided to go crystal hunting. Hunter and his friend Trevar have always wanted to go with me so I figured with they being off for the summer it was a perfect day. We left at 7am and headed up to Devilshead. The plan of the day was to try and find a hole that had long been abandoned and check out the bottom to see if there was anything left. Then once it got warmer we’d head back to where I had luck last year. Well, that plan never worked out…

We never found the hole I was looking for and we hiked quite a bit, so I decided, since it was on the way, to hit a spot where we could likely pull some “scraps” from other digs–give the kids a chance to get “in the mood” and then get them digging! While they were checking out the tailings, I decided to check out a pit where I found my first two crystals ever to see if there was anything. The hole had been worked since last year so I figured it was stale; but after about 10 minutes I hit a little “mud”. That is where I stayed all weekend! 😉

Here is my work environment with the large crystal in the vug

I worked in some mud and was finding some interesting crystals; nothing “perfect” but definitely 2 or 3 faced smokey quartz and somewhat large. I had some hard rock in the way of a crystal I found so I excavated that section and discovered the pocket was larger than I thought. I started to work on the right side of the pocket and discovered some flat sides on a “rock”. I worked this side of the pocket for the next couple of hours.

Large crystal awaiting extraction

Here is the large crystal after at least 90 minutes of excavation work

For some reason the big crystal wouldn’t move; I finally was able to get it to move slightly and found that it was hung up on something behind the crystal.  I removed some mud back there and discovered another crystal attached.  I was able to pull the crystal out of the mud finally, and to my surprise there was a point on the other end!  Wow, a huge crystal (I never dreamed I’d find) in my hand!

The monster crystal

To my surprise a terminated crystal! HUGE!

After pulling this out, I figured out what it was caught up on, another small little crystal fell into my hand when pulling this huge one out.

The little crystal that was holding up excavation of the huge crystal

The little crystal that was holding up excavation of the huge crystal

The kids were pretty impressed too but they decided to continue on their fort made with sticks and a hole. There were a couple of large (one larger) crystals in the same pocket so I with renewed energy started working on those. Ended up the biggest crystal hit the bottom of the pocket after about 4″, so it was huge in girth but didn’t do anything as far as a point.  I have that in the rock garden out front as a momento.  The other crystal in the back of the pocket looked promising and I worked on that the rest of the day; but didn’t get it out by the time we had to leave–working in that pocket mud/clay is somewhat difficult and you have to be extremely careful so you don’t break any other crystals.

Nice Microcline crystal

Nice Microcline crystal

I found a couple of cool Microcline crystals this first day and also some neat double-terminated flat crystals.

Cool double terminated flat crystal

Cool double terminated flat crystal

The pocket continued…Saturday AM.

We had a birthday party to go to at 2pm, so I woke up early and headed back up the hill to see what I could excavate in the 4 hours I had.  Not messing around, once I booked it into the hole I started by excavating more area to work in so I wouldn’t have to lay down like the day before.  That ended up being a good 30 minute investment for sure.  I ended up pulling out a lot of the pocket and found some great smokeys and microcline crystals, including several funky double-terminated ones that were great.  The large crystal ended up terminating into the granite so there was no point; but it was worth the effort for sure as I pulled out some great other crystals in the process!

Nice thin crystal from the left side of the pocket

Nice thin crystal from the left side of the pocket

Nice gemmy fatty!  Part of a cluster that I have yet to fully excavate.

Nice gemmy fatty! Part of a cluster that I have yet to fully excavate.

Another cool microcline crystal.

Another cool microcline crystal.

This microcline is the coolest one I’ve ever seen.  This was sitting below the granite dividing the two sides of the pocket.  Ultra cool crystal!

Ultra cool microcline beast!

Ultra cool microcline beast!

The Giant all cleaned up

The Giant, all cleaned up

This is the second big crystal that took a while on Saturday to pull out.  Even though it isn’t terminated, it is really neat with lots of detail in every side!

Big crystal #2

Big crystal #2

Here are a couple of the double terminated crystals I found immediately behind the big crystal #2.  It was time to head back, but there was a lot of cool stuff behind this crystal…ended up still home early so no damage done! 🙂

Sweet double terminated smokey

Sweet double terminated smokey

Super cool double terminated with tiny tip

Super cool double terminated with tiny tip

I was pretty excited when I pulled this big guy out.  Like a lot of the crystals I pulled out, they do not have very straight sides but instead have a lot of character.

Sweet large crystal

Sweet large crystal

This one was nice and gemmy, but obviously had another rock at its tip…

Gemmy flat sided crystal; one of the few with flat sides

Gemmy flat sided crystal; one of the few with flat sides

Here is the collection of nice microcline crystals I pulled out and cleaned.

Microcline collection from the pocket

Microcline collection from the pocket

There were several more really nice crystals, you’ll just have to pay a visit to take a look at them 🙂  I also found more imperfect crystals like this one that were way cool; several that were thinner than glass and in a small “pane”.

Cool flat crystal, not terminated but interesting shape.

Cool flat crystal, not terminated but interesting shape.

This is terminated on one side, very cool crystal!

This is terminated on one side, very cool crystal!

Between the success at Devilshead, the Saturday birthday party and the Sunday BBQ, this was a great father’s day weekend!  Thanks everyone, including you, mother earth!

Dad’s Crystals

Last time I visited my folks I took some quick photos of their crystals…

Smokey on Matrix from Devils Head, 2009 trip.

Nice smoky on Microcline from the same pocket as above at Devishead.

Smoky on cool Microcline Crystals

Another picture of this cool crystals…

And another picture:

A nice Amethyst cluster from Brazil (?):

Nice cluster of Amethyst

A nice encrysted Amethyst:
Encrusted Amethyst

Galena Crystal:

Awesome Pyrite:

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!