The Rockhounds Guide to Colorado by William A. Kappele

Review by Greg Truitt

Rocks – March 1996 – Colorado Central Magazine

The Rockhound’s Guide to Colorado
by William A. Kappele
Published in 1995 by Falcon Press
ISBN 1-56044-331-6

The cover, with a striking photo of green and white amazonite crystal sporting geometric bands, brings to mind Christmas candy. It’s an appetizer for 77 black-and-white photos inside, some of crystals but generally of landscapes that beckon.

Kappele lists 78 Colorado sites, mostly in the mountains, all with road maps and directions. But the directions to one local site take you to a parking lot along the river and invite you to go on up. He doesn’t note that the trail actually starts on the other side of the formation.

But perhaps Kappele means for the rockhound to be a bit of an explorer, since there’s no way to be sure of finding rocks worthy of collecting.

When we see a site labeled “Garnet Gathering,” we may suspect with reason that the garnets are mostly gone, and this book won’t guarantee that you’ll find any keepers. The author admits to many trips during his 40 years of collecting in which all he could find was the view — which turned out to be more than adequate for his purposes.

Besides his detailed routes, Kappele also offers a dozen additional excursions for “the intrepid explorer.” These are places that he hasn’t actually visited, but he has it on good authority, or at least a cracker-barrel rumor, that there ought to be something there.

He emphasizes the speculative nature of rockhounding with the observation that these sites “may be posted as private property, they may have shopping malls built over them, or they may be collected out If you are a grab-bag or lottery-ticket buyer, get your bag and hammer and go for it.”

This is a hand-sized guidebook with an emphasis on quick reference. Kappele also offers short explanations of related subjects like finding your way in the back country and rockhound etiquette.

His cautions on safety around abandoned mines seem especially pertinent, given two such deaths in the West already this year, both on Jan. 13. A Colorado man succumbed to mine gas while a Utah man fell down a shaft. Kappele asks, “If there were riches worth risking life and limb for down in the depths, then why was the place abandoned.”

Since 1980 the Colorado Division of Mines and Geology has sealed 4,000 of the approximately 23,000 mine openings in the state. But they don’t stay sealed. The bars over the mine that claimed the Colorado man had been removed, perhaps by a spelunker (certainly not by a fellow rockhound, right?)

The Rockhound’s Guide to Colorado is provocative skimming for anyone with restless boots, a lower back in working condition, and perhaps a bit of prospector in the gene pool.

— Greg Truitt