This morning we are left with two muddy ATVs and a bunch of dripping gear.
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.
Here’s a picture of the large bed of clams and some crazy calcium carbonate deposit. Look at those pretty paralellograms.
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.
With one atv down, tomorow i will take a group up to a cretaceous fossil lake with algae deposits. Cool!!!
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!
On Monday Eric and I ventured back to the Book Cliffs in order to find the location from which the bones of a new duckbilled dinosaur were excavated about 20 years ago. We drove to Thompson Canyon, parked, then started our climb.
The site was supposed to be about 400 feet up the cliffs, only a quarter mile from the road. Piece of cake right?
The first 50 feet of the climb was easy, then the grade went to near vertical. It was an awesome climb as we passed through an ocean then beach and ended up in an estuary.
We never found the site, but got some good prospecting in, finding some bone scraps.
We did not want to go back down the way we came up so an adjacent canyon was the route. Easier it was, but easy it was not.
In addition to narrow slots we had to squeeze through, the wildlife decided to pay us a visit out of bush, only 6 inches from my boot. Luckily Eric and I descended unharmed and with hope that our next locality will be just as inspiring.
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.
Yeah, we know how they feel.
Bucky and the team are out looking for dinosaurs and other ancient animals as we speak. Cell phone reception is pretty spotty in the area they are currently prospecting. Footholds are pretty spotty too, it would seem.
Ask any paleontologist how many times they have gotten themselves stuck, clinging for their life on some rock or scraggy near vertical hillside covered in gravel and they will just laugh. Usually a day doesn’t go by when I gaze up to the top of a cliff, sigh, and say to myself… ugh, I have to go up there? It’s all part of the job!