Tuesday 8/9

We went in to town this morning after a nice breakfast at camp. We got groceries, ice and stopped in at Russell’s to see the ranch owner, Merri, at her store. Oh, and you’re right, we did stop at “my” coffee shop for a nice chai latte and conversation. Back at camp, put away groceries and took off for some prospecting in the western part of the ranch where I have just started to explore for the first time. It was Jason’s first time in this area, after coming out here to help on digs at this ranch four different times so far. He’s very helpful and an experienced digger now.

I forgot, on the way back to the ranch after getting supplies, we stopped along the trail/gravel road to check out a big set of bee hives, maybe 50 hives in total. Jason’s a beekeeper so he was interested in what was going on. While taking a look at all the hives and the comings and goings of the bees we spotted a trove of what look like deer bones. A real slaughterhouse setting of old sun-bleached bones. It sure looks like a hiding spot for coyote to drag they kill to and hunker down to dinner. Here’s what we saw –

Remains of the day, or more likely, the night! That’s a few small deer that have been consumed here.

We drove around to this newish area to me and to Jason’s surprise, we loaded up a big piece of twisted cedar tree truck I had previously drug down off a butte to salvage and possible bring home with me. It could become a garden feature or Elizabeth may say “No” and it will decorate my fossil workshop, who knows? we took off on foot from there walking around prospecting for new things. We found a site with a lot of exposed, weathered, broken bits and pieces of bone. It looks like someone had dug here in the past and left some bone which has since weathered out and fallen apart. Looked like some big bones – but, alas, we were too late for this one. We pressed on and found some small items here and there but not anything noteworthy. Until we did!

We saw the classic scene; some pieces of weathered fragments of bone scattered about and “flowing” downhill that leads up to something on the surface that looks a little bigger and a little “suspicious.” Meaning, possibly a larger piece of bone that could lead to something. It did! Not yet sure what we found, but we dug on it for a few hours and started to expose the outline of several large bones. It looks a little like it could be triceratops, maybe! That would be cool. Non the less, it’s a big bone or bones and we can’t yet figure out the outline to better guess what we’re looking at. It was a clear and warm day up on the side of this butte. Actually, it was hot! No shade and no cover all afternoon. Here are a couple of photos from what we found and started to dig today. And here’s a link to a video we took as we were getting started on this one – https://youtu.be/2EaKIusdYjs

23” long rib bone fragment. It’s pretty robust which seems more tricertops(ish) than hadrosaur.
Here’s what we have exposed so far after a few hours work to try to define the outside edges of the bone(s). Hard to tell the bone form surrounding rock and soils but it’s pretty big so far.
Just one part of the set of bones highlighted in this photo. Looks like an approx. 40” long, big bone.

We broke for lunch in the shade of a lone cedar tree below us, which was a really nice relief, and delicious then back up to work on these newfound bones. We called it around 5:30 and left all in place the way they are in that photo above. No rain in the forecast so all should be good until we return tomorrow. We packed up our gear and went down to the truck to drive toward our way out. We decided to stop at a couple of more nearby buttes that we had seen things on last week when I first explored this area. Jason saw a few small items like crocodile scutes (bony plates that are like a fish’s scales) and I stopped to pick around at a couple of bones that Jeff found last week but we never got to them. I just plopped down next to the two bones after digging a small sitting place on the steep hillside where they bones were exposed. This is on a spot I nicknamed Tombstone butte for the large piece of vertical rock prominently sticking straight up. Jason went on a walkabout prospecting for new things while I worked on trying to see if this new set of bones could turn out to be collectible.

After about 45 minutes of clearing away the surrounding matrix I found one of the bones to be the end of a limb bone, maybe? It’s very weathered from exposure and from being so near the surface. After the clearing away of the surrounding rock it seems that this item is not really able to be salvaged. It’s very cracked and broken and is only a short piece (20” or so long) of a larger bone. I’ll decide tomorrow if we should work on completing the excavation of this piece. Here’s a shot of what I worked on and the “Nittany Lion” rock shelf above me.

Not sure this will be collectible. Worked on exposing it for about an hour.
The cap rock formation above me while I worked on the weathered bone.
There he is walking down from searching for fossils up high in this pretty ranch property.
Jason walking about after lunch break. feels like we’re in our very own western National Park, but there is no traffic, no cars, no people, no lines for anything. Thank you to the ranch owners for allowing me on their property again this year.