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.
Made it across the river.
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.
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!
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.
Nonetheless, one rider down, we trudged on. We stopped to prospect a basin with spectacular views.
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.
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.
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!
The field team reports that it has been wicked cold on the plateau in southern Utah for the first part of their trip. I thought they were just exaggerating until I received this photo yesterday.
I guess it really is 20 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Believe it or not, these guys have been sleeping outside in this, no tents. Now that’s dedication!
At least it hasn’t all been bad. Aside from the stunning views they have been afforded so far, Bucky and the team had a close encounter, with some elusive bighorn sheep. Bighorn sheep populations were once a mainstay for Utah natives, but populations declined dramatically mid-century, and by the 60’s it was though that the species was extinct in Utah. The culprit was thought to be diseases carried by domestic sheep. Later biologists located the sheep in some of the most “inaccessible, most hostile country in Utah” according to the Deseret News.