Wednesday, July 19

Had a very nice day today with guests coming to the ranch to check out what a dinosaur excavation looks like and for some fun walking around on the buttes and badlands looking for fossil treasures. We met a professor acquaintance of mine from Franklin College back home in Franklin, Indiana. Michelle came with her husband, Dan and their two children and Dan’s sister, Katie and her two children. They had been on a fun family excursion camping out and traveling to Glacier National Park then into Canada to hike at Banff and other places. On their way back home to Indiana and Michigan they arranged to stop by to see us and check out how we find and excavate dinosaur fossils.

Just getting to the first stop and trying to determine the difference between a fossil and a rock.

We met in town then they followed us to the camp taking Battleship Butte road because the path is out if driving on the main county road called Cabin Creek. I gave them a hand drawn map to help navigate in and mostly to help them get out okay. We got all set and talked about snakes and ranch gates and a couple of other rules then set out all together in my truck to go exploring. My friend Jeff did decide to go out on his own to prospect today while we all went on a journey to learn about dinosaur digs.

I started by teasing the kids about gate rules and they were recruited to open and close each gate we got to; they took me in stride and took to figuring out how to maneuver each gate we got to. Not easy as each one seems to have its own secret “combination” to figure out so one can open and shut it. We started at an area of exposed buttes that I normally see quite a bit of miscellaneous bone and turtle shell fragments; it’s a good introduction for new folks to get their feet wet in trying to distinguish between rock and fossil. Everyone did well. A lot of questions at first then we moved to me pushing them to share what they thought the item was and I just agreed or shared why it wasn’t. Soon enough most everyone was getting good at knowing the difference and being able to determine on their own that their find was either a rock or a true fossil. We had a fall or two, a blown off hat that had to be retrieved, a misplaced phone, but I think everyone was into it. Lots of turtle shell was found, small dino bone fragments, some fish scales and tiny fish vertebra and even some crocodile teeth and at least one theropod tooth; very cool!

Serious searching going on by all!
Notice the experienced bone hunter sitting on his rear instead of crouched down – it gets a little harder to do every year! Everyone found cool things and did very well.
Big “C” out prospecting for bones
What have we found here? They all got so into it we had to push on to get to the next new place.

We packed up and drove to the triceratops dig site we’re we took the tarp off the site to show everyone what we were doing there and how it happens. They had lots of good and on point questions. What a great group of kids and adults who seemed to really be into what we are doing. We had packed a lunch so we sought out a little shelter from the very strong winds happening today. It was blue skies and white puff clouds today with very little evident of the strong haze and smokey days we’ve been having of late. After lunch the crew was put to work removing overburden while carefully examining it for any trace of fossils. The area left to clear did have some fossils found earlier near there so all needed to be careful as they dug and tossed excess rock out of the way. And they found 2-3 real pieces of Olivia the triceratops! Either we had missed them earlier or they were still buried and the group carefully uncovered and found them.

The gang at the triceratops dig site. The bones are behind them.
Helping to remove “overburden” by carefully sifting and looking through it before throwing the rock and dirt in your brother or sisters face! It was really windy and a beautiful day today

I think a fun time was had by all an d we took a group photo or two then piled 7 people plus me into the truck for the bumpy half hour drive back to camp and then van. They took off for their next stop on the way home and I went to meet up with Jeff. He had a long walk about on ish his own today prospecting for fossils with not much luck. But he did get in close to 7 miles of walking up and down and around high buttes searching for fossils and enjoying the fantastic scenery. I met Jeff high up on an overlook and we just relaxed and chatted and enjoyed a beer to finish up the day perched high above the ranch looking out across a huge expanse of exposed badlands full of dinosaurs waiting to be found.

Headed back to camp for showers and a nice home made dinner of brats and sauerkraut and salad and other treats. Good to get to bed under a pitch black night sky absolutely full of bright stars.