Monday, July 18, 2016

Nevada - Utah Mega Trip 2016 Day Eight: North Canyon and Kings Canyon

July 15, 2016

For most of us, this was the last fossil-hunting day of this fantastic trip.  Our first site of the day, called North Canyon, was in the Weeks formation - younger than the Marjum but still Cambrian.  Piles of shale spilled from the quarry and most had tiny lingulid brachiopods.  Some also found trilobites, too. Knowing that the day was going to get hot, we quickly got good samples, packed up and moved to the next site.

North Canyon Quarry
Slab with brachiopods

This next site, called Kings Canyon, was actually at the top of a mountain up a very rocky, steep road that leads to radio and microwave towers.  We're not sure yet which Devonian formation this is, but it was thought that we would find graptolites.  Instead we found lots of interestingly preserved gastropods and a few corals.

Atop a Devonian formation

Interesting gastropods
The day was still young so after leaving this site, several of us returned to Fossil Mountain.  That was such a crazy-diverse site.  And one spot, dubbed the Dennis Brachiopod Hill, had rocks that were almost completely brachiopods.  Wow!

The whole wall is brachiopods

I know that there will be a few who remain in Utah for one more day in the dirt.  I decided to head on home - all of my boxes and baggies are full.  What a great trip.  Now, I am off to identify them all!

Salt Flat Selfie

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Nevada - Utah Mega Trip 2016 Day Seven: UDIG and Marjum Pass

July 14, 2016
Starting the day at the UDIG quarry makes one happy with fossil collecting.  You know you are going to find something!  Fresh material had been opened up in a couple different places at the quarry and there was plenty of room for everyone. 

<<== Room for more. 

There must have been some really good finds over there.                                      ==>>

The list of finds that I know of include at least 3 species of trilobite, hyoliths, algae, and brachiopods.  We definitely stayed for the whole of the duration of time we paid for - it was hard to leave!

The gang's all here (except Susie)

Michael's beautiful Asaphiscus wheeleri.

Marjum site
Despite the baking 99 degree temperature, we again formed the caravan to go to another Cambrian site - at Marjum Pass.  Mostly we found Perinopsis here.  A few asteroid fossils were there, too. 

The most unusual specimen Taylor brought down at the end of our dig there.  What is it?
Unidentified, but cool!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Nevada - Utah Mega Trip 2016 Day Six: Skull Pass, Fossil Mountain, and the Great Basin Get Together

July 13, 2016

I only got one photo in this morning of yesterday's finds:

5 kinds of brachiopod, colonial coral, and horn coral.

Highway closed while these passed
Trouble comes in threes... we had two vehicles with problems yesterday.  This morning one car had a flat that had to be changed right at the beginning of our trip.  The timing was serendipitous, though.  We had all pulled over and the task was nearly complete when the local authorities closed the highway for some very large vehicles to pass.  I have no idea what these things were.

Our first fossil stop, then, was the Ordovician site called Skull Pass.  Here we looked for graphtolites and eldonia.  Now that's an odd creature!  Eldonia pictures make me think of a jelly fish with a gastropod inside.

Atop Skull Pass


That spiral is eldonia

Fossil Mountain
Next stop, Fossil Mountain.  This site is Lower Ordovician in age.  It is also a famous site because of the diversity of fossils that may be found there.  We found many of the different invertebrate fossils, some of which we can't yet even place into phyla!   It was amazing!  The next photos show a few of the species that are easy to see in a picture.





Other finds included trilobites, orthocone cephalopods, bryozoans, and coral.

It was hard to leave this place except that it was rather hot.  Even sitting on the ground was occasionally uncomfortable because the rocks were so hot.  I think we'd do anything to be able to sit and find fossils, though.  Still, the itinerary next included the Great Basin Get Together.  At this picnic in a nice park in Delta, we shared some of our finds.

The Egg Game
Then Joe had a game prepared for us, one where we were to try to end up with the most eggs in a very short time.  Once the time was up, we opened the eggs to found our numbers.  These numbers corresponded to some delightful prizes.

A prize-winner

Tomorrow - Trilobites!

Nevada - Utah Mega Trip 2016 Day Five: Lehman Cave and Conger Spring

July 12, 2016

It's time to leave Ely, NV.  After 60-something miles, we were at the Great Basin National Park.  There is a very nice visitor center here, with explanations about the basin. It has been in use by humans for thousands of years.  It is somewhat isolated so there are some species of plants and animals that are only found here.

In the park is Lehman Cave.  While not the largest cave, it has many beautiful structures.  One particularly interesting one is called a shield.  This odd feature has a disk shape under which drapes and stalactites form.  Any idea how they formed?

A beautiful room in Lehman Cave

It's Bacon!

Some of the shields, the center one being the most famous

Heading east again from the park, we left the pavement again to go to Conger Spring.  A Pennsylvanian site, there was a hill that I called brachiopod heaven.  I haven't spread my finds out yet, but I'm pretty sure I have at least 7 or 8 different species.  There were several other families of fossils, too, such as colonial and solitary corals, crinoids, and bryozoans.

Now, this day wasn't quite perfect.  Two different vehicles required attention.  One is still on the side of the road, waiting for humans to come tend it.  All humans in our party are fine...

Given that, I haven't pictures of specimens from this day yet.  I will try to get some today to show you.  Of course, that just depends on whether or not I can stop myself from collecting in time today to do so.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Nevada - Utah Mega Trip 2016 Day Four: Little Antelope and Hamilton

From the grocery store in Ely, NV, we drove about 40 miles west on US Highway 50 to a turn off to a dirt road.  On the side of this were pieces of limestone containing lots of Eocene gastropods.  Lots.  Sorry I haven't a fossil photo - bright light, white stone, and light colored fossils are a challenge

Gathering to show off what they found.

It didn't take long before we had all we "needed" at this site and we moved on to another site that had a much higher variety of beautiful gastropods.  Some folks also found ostracods.

Nicely exposed outcrop of stone, very densely
 populated with fossils.

There are at least a dozen large
brachiopods in this picture.

We had lunch at this gastropod site, then headed on to the Hamilton site.  This is a Pennsylvanian marine site.  Initially, we were all scrabbling through scree, finding a sparse density of brachiopods.  Then Taylor came from across the ravine with specimens that made us all scamper.  It was amazing how many brachiopods were in the layers and loose to find.

The brachiopod layer - it went on for meters!

The final stop for today was in Hamilton, a ghost town.  Hamilton was once the county seat and a silver mining town, with a population of 25,000.  In the late 19th century, two major fires wiped out the structures of the town, leaving it uninhabitable.  For humans anyway.

On the way to visit Hamilton, we passed wild horses!

Exploring one of the few structures standing in Hamilton.
The good days just keep rolling along!

Nevada - Utah Mega Trip 2016 Day Three: Robinson Ranch, Bishop Springs, and Ward Charcoal Kilns

Before I get to this day's log, I wanted to share with you some more pictures from our first day.  Below are three pictures Dennis Gertenbach took of some very nice finds from day one's Crittenden Springs site.

For today's trip, we carpooled to Utah, towards Cowboy Pass.  The air was not clear; like Colorado, there've been fires burning in Nevada.  The wind was up and humidity was down, so smoke blew across mountains and valleys from north Nevada.

Robinson Ranch site
The first stop, Robinson Ranch, was in a wide, dry wash, into which Carboniferous brachiopods and solitary corals were carried.
Searching the wash at the Robinson Ranch site

We never became certain of the source rock, though we looked for it.  While searching, I did find some interesting concretions to photograph.  And Dennis found a curious lizard:

Rock art
Click for larger to see Lizzie

Holdfast? and branched solitary coral
There was one side gully that was dubbed Coral Wash, as most of the corals were found there.  One type had branching at a segment line which, according to Patrick, are distinctive to a very few species so we hope to get a good identification of them.  The specimen to the right of this photo is this type of coral.  The other piece in the photo is thought to be the holdfast of a crinoid.

The second stop of the day was also in west Utah, Bishop Springs.  This particular locality was a lone mound in a wide open valley.

Bishop Springs site

An eye-catching concretion
The outcrops were covered with odd, blackened concretions.  The concretion here was the first highly patterned one we passed.

In several places, there were fossils in slabs too big and hard to bring home - beautiful horn
corals, interesting brachiopods, and a lone gastropod.  The brachiopods were on concretions we speculated might have been part of a burrow system.

Coral Slab

Brachiopods (a few I circled) and possible burrows


The slab of horn corals pictured below shows an interesting story of preservation.  Apparently the center of some of these will be replaced differently than the outer portion.  The center is replaced with chert which is harder than the source rock.  As the source rock is worn away, the chert is left exposed.

Interesting preservation of coral

 The final stop of the day was the Ward Charcoal Kilns.  The kilns were used to burn wood into charcoal which was used in local smelters.

Ward Charcoal Kilns

Since I didn't get to this blog last night and am writing this in the morning, the weather has cooled.  I am glad I am in a motel: