Fossils

We made our way to Fossil Butte National Monument near Kemmerer, WY. Pam has a couple of framed fossils from her Dad that were from here so we decided to check the place out.

The area used to be a huge lake and the fossils are found in what’s referred to as the “18-inch layer” that was created many millions of years ago from the sediment of the lake bottom.

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There is an interesting point the Rangers make about the recovered fossils. Unlike dinosaur bones that are in a museum together, and may span millions of years, the recovered fossils of fish, plants and other animals from the lake bed are more a snapshot in time of both the flora and fauna since they are all relatively close in age.

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When they split the rock to get at a fossil, there is a layer of rock still covering the fossilized remains that must be painstakingly removed with a wire pick to expose the fossil. The commercial fossil hunters harvest the fossil rock slabs in the summer and finish the removal process once the snow covers this part of Wyoming.

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We hiked to an ongoing excavation in one of the park quarries. Here a Ranger was documenting all the fossils in a section of rock before they chipped off the next layer and continued the count. She was on 4300 and something when we arrived. The fossil fish were small but easy to see. The largest fossil imprint we saw in the rock turned out to be a turtle turd – go figure.

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We camped the night up a dirt road just outside the park on a stretch of BLM land. The spot was up at about 8,000 feet and had a pretty amazing view in all directions.

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The next day we hiked to the original quarry where most of the early fossils were found. It was the 100th anniversary of the national parks so there were many folks at the visitor center, but nearly none on the trails. It seems if you hike a couple of miles out along any dirt trail, especially if there is a hill, you will run into less than 1% of the people in any park. I’m glad we’re still part of the 1%ers on the trails.

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The old quarry trail passed by the original camp house that the fossil guys lived in while they dug for the fossils.

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The last section of the climb into the original quarry is steep so there is now a beautiful staircase of pressure treated railroad ties that lead you to the spot.

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We needed to stop back into Salt Lake City to pick something up at Pam’s brother’s house. Pam was having some vitamins she ordered online shipped to his place, while more importantly, I was picking up a section of railroad track that Pam’s brother uncovered during a fall garage cleaning that will be a future blacksmith project.

We camped in the Unitas, just into Utah from Wyoming, and a little further south than where we camped on our way out of Salt Lake City about a month ago. It’s getting noticeably cooler at night and the leaves on the trees are turning already at the higher altitudes.

We had a great view of a meadow from our camp spot and saw a young bull moose come out of the trees in the evening to munch on a willow in the meadow. He then walked across the entire meadow the next morning as we were having our coffee. There were also two Sandhill Cranes that I surprised in the morning and squawked their disapproval across the meadow as they left.

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We just spent the one night in SLC, but had a great dinner Saturday night and a tasty Sunday brunch at the Alta Lodge up Little Cottonwood Canyon before we hit the road again. This was the view from our table on the deck at the Lodge.

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We thought we would make our way to Dinosaur NM next, but stopped for the night at Starvation State Park in eastern Utah. The Indian Bay CG there was nearly beach camping and very beautiful.

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No lengthy trip is going to go without any issues and ours happened as we climbed into Dinosaur NM. A truck coolant line blew and drained all of our coolant out of the engine, which rapidly overheated in the climb. We coasted back down to Dinosaur, CO, isolated the hole in the line, refilled the cooling system with something and limped back 30 miles to Vernal, Utah and the nearest Ford dealer.

They were able to get us back on the road after a coolant drain and service, and even fixed a recall notice for the truck we had not seen yet. We ended up in the local Steinaker State Park for a couple of nights due to their maintenance schedule, but it was a nice place with water and a dump station (it’s the little things in life).

While in Vernal we discovered the Vernal Brewing Company that made some pretty good beer and food. I went for the Allosaurus Amber (had to given the area), while Pam preferred the She’s a Peach, peach wheat ale.
We toured the Utah Field House of Natural History, with its collection of dinosaurs and fossils found in the local area.

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We didn’t want to take the rig into a remote area until we were sure it was truly fixed, so we camped at Green River CG in the park for the night just to be safe. Had a good Ranger talk on rattlesnakes and even got a pipe cleaner, bug-eyed snake as a parting gift from the talk.

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We’ll head out tomorrow to where we originally were heading when we lost our coolant. It should be nice there for the holiday weekend, if there is a spot left.

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