Monday, 7/25

Jeff and I got up and went into Baker to stock up on ice (and maybe get a chai latte for me at my fav coffee shop in town). Back to the ranch where we got lunch provisions and headed out to explore/prospect some new territory on the ranch that I’ve never been to before. Exciting to go exploring and never sure what, if anything, we’ll find. Our first stop was at a big solitary butte in the western area of the ranch. We walked around the base of it for a bit then climbed up and walked the peak. We didn’t see much more than a few scraps of turtle shell until I stubbled across a worked flint artifact. It looks very beautiful with almost a leather look on one side of the piece of flint/chert that has worked edges to create a sharp scraping surface. It has a clean fracture line so I’m guessing it was originally a longer piece. So amazing to find a hand made stone tool that no one has seen or touched for a long time. Here’s a photo of it-

Hand worked flint artifact. part of a scraper or larger piece?

I also noticed some distinct longitudinal lines across an otherwise very common, hard, iron-like rock. I’m not sure but it looks to me like a fern or some other plant impression in the rock that preserved it. Here’s a photo –

Some kind of needled plant fossil?
Jeff out on the ranch
Jeff exploring

We pressed on trying to stay on an established trail but it didn’t seem to have been driven on recently and with the tall healthy grass was pretty much hidden. We stumbled along and wound up with the truck driving right up to a large dino bone filled looking exposed rock butte! We had a nice lunch with our backs to a wall sitting down in the shade.

So fortunate to get a table at this busy location!

Then started exploring, looking for any signs of fossils being eroded out onto the surface. I had never been to this particular part of the ranch before so it was all new to me. We started in walking and looking and almost immediately started seeing copious amounts of fossil bone shards and fragments and bunches of broken pieces of fossilized turtle shell. We were walking around the base of the butte and scampering up to higher elevations as we canvassed the thing. We each found a few small fragments and some micro fossils near the highest parts of this butte. As we walked near the spine of the top we saw some large, mostly whitish large things sitting on the surface. They turned out to be from a large fossil bone that was in decent shape for being exposed at the surface for how long? Maybe for years. A pretty big and robust bone that has really collected mineral deposits on the surface but is still mostly intact. Cool.

We saw this and started exploring
I’m pointing to what appears to be part of a hidden backbone vertebra.

We pitched in and started to uncover some adjacent bones that appear to be from the same animal. These were more buried and therefore more protected from weathering. It turns out to be what appears to be a couple of vertebrae and maybe a section of jaw! You can see in the photo below rows, furrows, in the jaw bone that would have held a battery of many teeth. I’m not yet sure what this is but is likely a hadrosaur jaw. It could be from a triceratops but not sure until it gets more exposed. Way cool!

Rows in the jaw bone where “batteries” of teeth were held in place. See it?
Jaw is taking shape!

Some photos from the day – mostly of me being foolish! And of the wonderful rock formations with colorful lichen all over them.

Adventurer Steve hoping the tumbleweed will lead the way to the next big find!

On the way back to camp we took, well let’s call it the road less traveled. As I mentioned, I’d never been to this part of the ranch before. I could see a significant landmark the whole time, a large butte we call Red Top, for the exposed red clinker rock at the top of it. So, there’s Red Top over there but we’re here. We carefully start crawling along in our truck in the 3’ high lovely green grass. In three feet of grass it’s really hard to find an old car trail that maybe hasn’t been driven on for a year or more. We slowly picked our way along looking for any sign of the “road.” We’d swing one way, find it, then vere off the other way, then back and find it again. This went on for an hour or so while we picked our way back toward Red Top that must have been only about 3 miles away. We were basically crawling, with Jeff getting out of the truck from time to time to walk ahead of the tires looking for problems to avoid or any sign of the trail! We both kept it together, including when it seemed we ran into dead ends. And we persevered! Made it out under Red Top, found the gate in a fence I was familiar with and on our way back to camp as the skies started to threaten some rain.

Here are a few shots of the storm clouds on the trail back and of the rainbow that graced us over Juliet’s butte and our camp. What a day.

Our home away from home for 5 weeks with a rainbow gracing Juliet’s butte beyond.