This is the June 2012 installment by Jacque Keller.
June Bookends 2012 by Jacque Keller
From agate hunting in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to chipping for garnets on Ruby Mountain outside Buena Vista, I’ve been a rock hound my whole life. The colors, shapes, formations and striations of rocks, minerals and fossils are fascinating to me. Recently when a library patron came looking for books on gems in our area, I found myself digging through the shelves at the West Custer County Library in downtown Westcliffe.
Rock hounding in the Rocky Mountains can be as easy or hard as one wants. Since there are literally rocks everywhere, beautiful quartz and granite may be found simply by pulling off to the side of the road or walking in your back yard and poking around. From there, everything from petrified wood to dinosaur bones, precious metals and gems can be found all over the state and in our own back yard of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
To whet your whistle, “The Gem Kingdom” and “The Mineral Kingdom” both by Paul E. Desautels have sparkling illustrations, history and lapidary techniques.
“The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Minerals and Rocks” edited by Randolph Lucas and “A Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals” by Frederick H. Pough are good resources for the many types of formations and types of areas where particular rocks and minerals may be found.
“Exploring rocks, minerals, fossils in Colorado” and “Colorado Gem Trails and Mineral Guide” by Richard M. Pearl; “Roadside Geology of Colorado” by Halka Chronic and Felicie Williams; and “Rockhounding Colorado” by William and Cora Kappele all include different styles of maps and illustrations about areas around the state with geological periods and time lines showing the earth’s formations. Any one of these books can lead you to neighborhoods for jasper, garnets, topaz or quartz, just to name a few of the gems, minerals and fossils hidden in the hills.
If you’re not looking for anything in particular but want a taste of hiking in the mountains, the late Michael O’Hanlon’s “The Colorado Sangre De Cristo: A Complete Trail Guide” is a fabulous comprehensive book of maps and descriptions from the south to the north, east and west sides of “the Spine of the Earth.” It has been one decade since O’Hanlon, formerly of Rosita, lost his life in a climbing accident while exploring Mt. Adams. He was recognized as one of the foremost authorities on the trails in this area.
On that note, when hiking always remember to watch your step, dress in layers, prepare for all sorts of weather, take snacks and water, and always let someone know your destination.
Come on into the library, settle into a comfy chair and browse the pages of photos of sparkling gems and ancient treasures. Check out a trail guide and set out on a rock hounding adventure. Detailed topography maps are also available at the U.S. Forest Service office in Silver Cliff and Take A Hike camping store in Westcliffe.