The Fallout

This morning we are left with two muddy ATVs and a bunch of dripping gear.

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Stormy Mountain

This afternoon we were hit by a massive thunderstorm. I was happily scampering about on the edge of a road cut when Bucky came pealing down the road shouting that the sky was falling (literally) and we better get off the mountain. We loaded the gear, I jumped on the back and we took off. Within seconds the skies opened and we were pelted with sheets of rain, high winds, and 10 minutes later… pea sized hail. unbelievable. Bucky did a stellar job, especially because we were loaded up with three people now that we are short one ATV. I took a backseat on this one, being the lightest to sit over the axle. This worked out well because I was able to take an awesome video of the lunatic ride down the mountain in the storm.

I will upload the video later but here are some photos.

The hail.

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Made it across the river.

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The scariest part–the hill that where our crewmember flipped his ATV last week. The hill is made of Mancos Shale, a rock that was deposited when a shallow seaway covered this area around 90 million years ago. When this stuff gets wet, it can be very slick.

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This is one of the reasons we were racing down the mountain, to get across this hill before it became impassable. In the end we all made it ok. This morning we head back up the mountain to put plaster caps on the bones we found. Collecting them will have to wait until next year!

The Good the Bad and the Ugly

Today we headed back to the same basin for more prospecting and to try and excavate the nice bone we found yesterday. Unfortunately, the “nice” bone is buried under a sandstone ledge in some nasty hard siltstone. After an hour and a half of pounding on an inch wide chisel all I had uncovered was another six inches of bone…

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Next I found a croc scute and two more sites with fossil bone. Tomorrow we will poke around and see if those new sites are worth collecting from.

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At the end of the day we tied some firewood to the ATVs and hauled it back to camp.

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Mile high crocs

Lindsay told everyone about the amazing rescue of the atv and the good news for our crew member.  I wanted a few other highlights.  First we got a new crew member today, David.  Here he is with Eric before our hike today.

We looked for fossils in a small basin that we soon found was made of rock formed by shallow ocean water complete with beach, clams, and sharks.  Here is a picture of the opposite side of our basin…what a view.

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Here’s a picture of the large bed of clams and some crazy calcium carbonate deposit.   Look at those pretty paralellograms.

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In the excitement of yesterdays events we forgot to mention the coolest fossil find.  This is a picture of a fossil crocodile track as it scraped the bottom of a tidal river swimming through shallow coastal swamp.  This animal would be over 20 feet long.   Think of a salt water croc.

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With one atv down, tomorow i will take a group up to a cretaceous fossil lake with algae deposits.  Cool!!!

Paydirt

This morning we spent three hours pulling the lost ATV up the cliff. The good news is, it was still drivable and we were able to get it back to camp, sort of in one piece. The handle bars and the frame are bent up so this one is out of commission.

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Nonetheless, one rider down, we trudged on. We stopped to prospect a basin with spectacular views.

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After several hours of prospecting we finally hit paucity–an area of the basin with ancient river channels and overbank deposits. Inside of these sediments we found lots of bone: turtle, dinosaur, and crocodile. The bone was a rare and beatific shade of peach on the outside and black on the inside. Here’s a shot of a pelvic bone from a plant eating dinosaur sticking out from beneath a sandstone.

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Jack and Jill

We were into some pretty heavy riding today. One of our crew lost control of his ATV and rolled it down a very large hill and into the river. He was pinned under for at least one roll, but the good news is that he escaped with minor injuries–mostly bruising–no breaks. Tomorrow we have to figure out how to salvage the ATV (if possible). Stay tuned.

Life On The Edge

Right now I am standing on the edge of the world… or at least it feels like it. In front of me a hundred miles of terrain splay out like an ocean of desperation.

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It took us all morning to get up here. Three hours on a few wicked ATVs. Frankly, I am surprised we made it, what with the rockfalls, river crossing, boulder climbing, and general lack of a trail most of the time. In fact, a little while back it got a little too hairy even for us and we had to leave one of the ATVs behind. In general I question our sanity. Only Bucky and I made it up here, probably because we have no sanity left. Now time for a look around!

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