There are times in one’s mineral collecting career a special event occurs that rises to the top. After 23 years of collecting in Colorado, July 2, 2005 became such an occurrence for me.
My son Tim and I had been operating a track hoe on the Smoky Hawk since 10 June and had been experiencing good success, but nothing terrific. On 27 June our luck changed. We discovered two remarkable pockets which contained some incredible specimens. One specimen, named the Legend, is the largest combination smoky quartz and amazonite white stripe and white cap specimen ever discovered in the Crystal Peak Mining District. This is the story behind the two pockets and the Legend.
During most of the operation, I hired Robert Quist to operate the excavator. My son Tim, then a sophomore at the University of Wyoming, was the primary miner. As in past seasons, I supervised the operation and provided close eyes for the operation. Also as in the past, I welcomed occasional visitors and when possible, allowed them to help us recover some of the specimens. Leonard Himes (Graeber & Himes Minerals) and Isaias Casanova (IC Minerals) happened to be visiting on 27 June and they were assisting us as we began opening pockets.
As Robert worked the bucket from the right to left side of the 35-foot wide working face, a rather thick pegmatite emerged on the far right. It broke the surface and dipped from the upper right, downwards towards the left. It did not appear to have been previously dug by field collectors like many of the pegmatites on the Smoky Hawk had been. As Robert exposed more of it, it widened to about a foot thick. About 8 feet along its length, about 6 feet below the surface, some rusty red areas began to appear amidst large chunks of smoky quartz, a good sign for a pocket. Tim and Leonard began picking it apart, searching.
By now, Tim and Leonard were beginning to pull a few amazonite and smoky quartz crystals from their pocket—pocket 05-056. Shortly, Isaias and I also hit the beginnings of a cavity and began finding a few crystals—pocket 05-057. We had discovered two, what appeared to be good pockets, about 20 feet apart. Although the contents were heavily coated with iron oxides, it appeared the amazonites were a deep blue green. The amazonites from 05-056 also appeared to have white caps. Both pockets appeared to have good potential, but now the day was late. We packed the cavities with newspapers and buried them.
The next day, Tim began collecting 05-057, the pocket on the left. I took Robert down the hill to open up another prospect which I had scheduled to excavate. In that way, Tim was not in the way of the machine and I could keep it running. If the pocket Tim was working turned out small, I would bring the machine back in and we would resume work on our main dig. This wasn’t the case—over the next several days, he collected about 20 flats from 05-057. All the crystals were huge. Smokies reached 8 inches in length. Amazonites were up to 4 inches long. Many amazonites and smokies formed groups with large-bladed cleavelandite. All were heavily iron stained, but if they cleaned up, these would be some of the largest and finest groups we’d ever found. For the next several days, we had plenty to keep us busy until Scott arrived.
I had not seen Scott since his Air Force commissioning last December. He was now training to be a navigator but managed to get a couple days of leave due to the July 4<sup>th</sup> holiday. He came home for the long weekend and joined us on 2 July at the dig site.
We began work that morning by resuming work on pockets 05-054 and 05-055, two other pockets I had not finished. These two pockets were some of the deepest we had found—nearly 30 feet below the surface. Both pockets had incredible rich, blue green amazonites, but both were very badly fractured and were filled with gummy yellow clay. They were also capped by a hard layer of granite about 6 feet thick that even the excavator couldn’t break. We were able only to collect a few crystals near the openings of the two pockets; then I buried them. I logged the GPS location for them in my mining journal. Before I could work them, I’d need to figure out how to remove the cap rock. In the meantime, if I intended to re-open 05-056 and 05-057 for Scott, I had to burry them in order to bring the machine back up to the wall.
After filling the excavation and bringing in the excavator, I began raking the wall where Tim had dug out 05-057. Pocket 05-056 was still intact, visible as some newspapers sticking out of the face above us. The 05-057 pegmatite continued downwards to the right. As I exposed it, it widened, and I began to wonder if it wasn’t the same pegmatite that 05-056 was on. At last, it bottomed out. Unfortunately, there was no pocket in the bottom, as often was the case, but the pegmatite did begin to rise to the right. Without question, it was the same pegmatite. Not only were the two giant pockets near one another, they occurred on the same peg!
I had Robert carefully worked the bucket along the pegmatite until it was exposed all the way to the entrance of pocket 05-056. I then switched to the far right of the pocket to check for any additional pegmatite. There was none. By cutting into the wall on both sides of the pocket, I had now bracketed the pocket. As a last step, I took as much off the top as possible. Now, Scott and Tim could safely work the pocket from both sides. Reluctantly, I couldn’t stick around to help them collect. I had to keep the machine operating to keep the costs as efficient as possible and so took Robert to an upper prospect where we had previously found some small pockets of incredible color. I planned only to work until 2 PM and then shut down so I could enjoy collecting with my two sons. I did not know when, if ever, I’d have another chance.
In short order I hit some small pockets in the upper prospect and began examining them. They were good color, but the crystals were small. Shortly after, Scott’s head appeared over the edge. “Hey, Dad. We need your help pulling out a plate.”
“You’re kidding. You can’t have something that big.” I replied. I thought he was joking. My two boys could handle pretty large stuff.
“This one is.” He was grinning from ear to ear.
When I arrived at the pocket, I could hardly believe my eyes. Scott and Tim had already filled several flats with huge newspaper-wrapped specimens. They now lay strewn around the cavity.
I reached in to examine the plate. It was thick and now loose. All that needed to be done was to lift it out. Scott had been correct. It was too heavy for one person.
For a long while, all we could do was laugh and cheer and stare. All efforts to keep the excavator running were abandoned. So be it if I lost a day’s rent. This was worth it. Robert had heard the cheers and had showed up by now to help as well. We officially shut down. It was clear I’d be helping my sons collect.
Tim carefully washed the giant plate. Similar to the other pieces from the pocket, it had white stripes and white caps. I knew the significance.
“At least it’s the largest white cap combo ever found,” observed Scott. He was being cautious.
“No, Scott. This is the largest combo of good quality. Period.” Tim was emphatic and probably knew more about specimens from the district than anyone, albeit he was but 20.
“You’re right, Tim.” I knew of several large plates that had been found. There were some amazonite without smoky quartz plates which were larger. There were two amazonite with smoky quartz plates that were possibly the same size, but neither had decent color. This one appeared not only to have excellent color by also had striking white caps and stripes. In addition, it had some cleavelandite and goethite pseudomorphs. “This has got to be a record.”
After the shock diminished, Tim and Scott returned to the pocket to begin the serious work of finding the missing pieces. Scott collected the crystals and tiny fragments and handed them to Tim who washed and fit them to the plate. Painstakingly, in this fashion, nearly all the missing pieces were found.
I wrapped pieces and documented the pocket. The sun grew long, and still we worked collecting the pocket. We filled 22 flats and a couple crates. Finally it grew dusk. It was near 8:30 PM. We packed the pocket which still held a number of pieces and buried it. I had decided not to dig on 3 July because I wanted to spend the day with Scott and catch up on things other than collecting. He had to head back on 4 July in order to be back on time 5 July for training. I intended to return with Tim and work on 4 July after dropping Scott off at the airport.
Apparently our cheers and our discovery hadn’t gone unnoticed. Someone else was on the mountain that afternoon and had been watching us. During the night, they dug up the pocket, removed the newspapers and cleaned out the remaining specimens. Although I don’t believe they stole any pieces which would have fit on the Legend, I know they stole some fine combination specimens. (If you ever see any large amazonites with white caps and white stripes on the market, let me know.) (This is our unburied pocket.)
The crystals from both pockets are huge. The largest smoky crystals are 12 inches long by 4.5 inches in diameter. Some of the largest amazonite crystals are 4.5 inches tall by 3.5 inches wide, clearly some of the largest we have found. The color of the smoky quartz is very dark; however most have some white, secondary quartz coating them giving them an overall appearance of gray tips and black bodies. The amazonites are dark, blue green. Those found in 05-056 also have highly pronounced white caps and stripes. Both pockets also contained large cleavelandite rosettes in which the smokies and amazonites are nested. Many of the smokies and some of the amazonites also have large, very sharp, rhombic goethite after siderite psuedomorphs sprinkled on them.
The crystals from both pockets are heavily crusted with thick red iron oxides. To date (this is written several months after the discovery), cleaning has consumed hundreds of hours and still, only a few specimens have been finished. The effort is worth it. The color contrast and crystal size is striking.
I also knew the large plate was exceptional. I named the large plate the Legend. I doubt if anyone will ever find one that beats it in combined quality and size. It is a legend.
We wanted to display the Legend immediately, but quickly realized the cleaning process would be enormous. We started by washing the Legacy II and laying out the pieces. For the next 8 months, Tim and I painstakingly pieced it together. The Legend had pretty well been completed in the field; however, a few pieces still remained to be found and we continued to search for these pieces while piecing other combination groups together.
After it was pieced together we took it to Collector’s Edge to their lab for the final cleaning. Bryan Lees saw the Legend while it was laid out in my garage along with the other specimens from the Legacy I pocket. He recognized its importance and potential quality and offered his lab’s services in cleaning the piece. Bryan and I had been discussing a possible joint mining venture on our collective mining claims. Bryan had the machinery and the lab. I had the experience and now, we’d proven we had exceptional pockets on our claims.
Cleaning and preparation continued from about March 2006 until September of 2007.
The full potential of both the Legacy I and the Legacy II is yet to be seen due to the extensive cleaning process. Hopefully, some will be on display in the near future.