Photos and video from our 2019 cross-country
After spending a couple of days in the area where I recovered my tortoise, then taking the kids out behind the Homestead, we moved on to a different area of the badlands. I immediately started
finding large numbers of teeth and jaw fragments with teeth in them. This area of the badlands seemed to be covered in teeth. See below.
Here is a photo of some of the teeth I collected on this trip. They range from fragments of Titanothere teeth that were originally as big as my fist, to tiny complete teeth from rabbits and other
small animals. By far the most common teeth were from Mesohippus (an early horse relative) and Oriodont (a strange but common animal that looked like a cross between a pig and a sheep).
This video chronicles our last few days of fossil hunting in the badlands. There were several really great finds during the last few days. The fossil trackway below was one of them. My own last
few hours of the last day find of a titanothere bone bed was another.
Mike S. found a fossil trackway of rhino footprints. It was an amazing find. He broke the stones with footprints in them out of the matrix and it took four of us to carry the largest of them
up out of the badlands.
Here is a photo of one of the rhino footprints in the rock taken with oblique lighting. The shape of the track really shows up wonderfully. The heel pad and three toes are totally obvious.
This was another great museum-quality find made on this trip.
Good job spotting them, Mike! The only problem was that Mike now had to transport hundreds of pounds of delicate and awkward stones home to Florida. He may need to return them to Nebraska or South
Dakota in the future as scientists and museums are expressing interest in them.
Our last day in the badlands started out hot and dry. It was promising to be a real broiler. This day was less structured than the previous days. Since it was our last day, several people needed
to finish up and retrieve specimens from areas we had visited earlier. Others wanted to go further afield in search of better specimens. It became something of a free for all. Instead of all of us
hunting a relatively small area of the badlands together, we split up into small groups that were sometimes miles apart. Late in the day a bad storm rolled in and dumped hard rain and sleet on us,
but since it was our last day and we needed to finish up, we worked right through it. Soon the sun was out again and we began warming up and our clothes started drying out. I was very reluctant to
leave due to the weather because of what I found near the end of the day. See below.
I found a Titanothere bone bed almost at the end of the last day. After dithering for a bit about whether we had time to dig it out, or whether we should just winterize the find and come back next year,
we decided to try to quickly salvage as much of the bones and teeth as we could before we had to pull out, then winterize the rest.
Here is the pile of aluminum jacketed material we dug out of this titanothere bone bed. There are four teeth, including one giant molar that may be as big as my fist once all the shattered
pieces are glued back together, and three whole smaller teeth, plus lots of bones. It was an amazing find. I hope we can dig more out of it next year.
Our last day in Nebraska we had a jacket party. We put plaster lids on all the plaster jacketed fossils we took out of the badlands. Completely encasing them in plaster makes them stronger
for the long and bumpy trip home to Florida. Once back in Florida, we will cut the jackets open and slowly, carefully, uncover and stabilize the fossils within. These are only about half the
jackets that came home this year. There were also buckets and boxes full of aluminum jackets and plastic bagged material. The U-Haul trailer was pretty packed. It was a really great and
productive trip to the badlands. Can't wait to go back again.
After we left Nebraska, we went back to Leslie's place in Wyoming for a couple of days. Then we set out for my place in Arizona. We were going to see a lot of sights along the way. Starting with
these lovely snow covered mountains in Wyoming. This is the Wind River Range. We actually drove up the north side of these mountains in a terrible blizzard with white-out conditions on the
road. It was a real white-knuckle drive with almost no visibility. When we crested the top of the pass, the snow pretty much stopped, and we got lovely long vistas of the beautiful mountains.
Here is a female turkey that crossed the road in front of us after we broke out of the snow in the Wind River Range. She lingered at the side of the road long enough for us to get some photos.
The next day dawned bitterly cold and spitting rain on and off. We headed over to Dinosaur National Monument. I had never been there before. Leslie and her son had been there a long time ago when he
was little. Much had changed since then, so it was like a new experience for her too. I was blown away by the 50 yard long wall of bones that is exposed there. It is immense and just chock full of
dinosaur bones. Many of the bones are still articulated, like the neck and skull at the top of this photo. Click the photo for a larger view.
Here Leslie is giving scale to part of the 50 yard long wall of bones. The whole thing is about 5 stories tall too. It's all walled in and roofed over to keep it and us out of the weather. We had
a great time looking at and learning about the various species of dinosaurs represented in this massive bone bed. The rangers were also very friendly, helpful and informative. They were especially
impressed to learn that we just came from a fossil dig in Nebraska.
A ranger told us that the outcrop continues through the hills outside, well beyond the section
that is covered by the building. She told us about a hiking trail that we could follow to see still more bones eroding out of the hills. We weren't sure about trying with the weather being so iffy.
It was cold and windy and intermittently sprinkling with the threat of heavier rain at any time. But we decided to go for it. Heck, we had been rained and hailed on half a dozen times in the Badlands
of Nebraska. How bad could it get here?
The rest of the second day was spent driving south toward my place in Arizona. We lingered long at Dinosaur National Monument. Then had an unexpectedly long lunch break in Colorado, and got caught up
in bad weather and heavy traffic while passing through Moab, UT. All this slowed down our progress and we arrived in Chinle, AZ much later than I had been hoping. Then we had an unfortunate
incident where the keys got locked in the truck and it took until about midnight to get a locksmith on site to open up the truck. It was a long day.
We didn't get to stop at every overlook at canyon De Chelly. I was worried that the weather was going to take a turn for the worse, so after stopping at the first few overlooks, I took us all the way
to see spectacular Spider Rock before things got ugly. It was a good decision. We left Spider Rock planning to see some of the overlooks we passed on the way. No sooner did we get to the White House
Overlook than the skies opened up and began dumping freezing rain on us. We just had time for a couple of photos and this quick selfie before we had to race back to the truck.
Finally, we made it to my property and my little cabin in the woods. Here Leslie snapped a picture of me as I was opening the door and letting her in for her first look at the place. She'd been
wanting to stay there with me for a long time. I had been
warning her that it was just one step (maybe half a step) above tent camping. She kept reassuring me that she could handle it. She is a tough woman. She'd have been a great pioneer woman 150
years ago. She can handle anything. She seemed to quickly adjust to, and even like staying in the primitive conditions, and claims she can't wait to go back again. We definitely
need to visit during a warmer time next time. It was really unseasonably cold and nasty while we were there. Late May is usually much warmer. Not this year. Winter wasn't easily giving way
to spring in the West this year. Arizona was a little warmer and less snowy, rainy and haily than most of the other states we'd visited, but only a little.
I took Leslie up into the White Mountains to see some of my favorite scenic places. We drove through a terrible blizzard up the slopes of the mountains. I expected to find the peaks and meadows
covered in snow and the roads impassible. To my great surprise, we came out of the blizzard into clear air above it as we ascended into the mountains. The winter snow had mostly melted, and
there was only a very fine, light snowfall coming down out of the clear, blue sky while we were up there. No doubt snowflakes from the lower altitude blizzard being lofted
by strong mountain updrafts. It was kind of surreal to have snow falling on us out of a clear sky. Leslie (a Florida girl) was especially stuck by it. The snow is too fine to show up in the
photos, but it fell on us the whole time we were up in the mountains. Leslie loved it up there. She thinks it's as beautiful and special as I do.
As we were driving around in the White Mountains, we came across this huge snow drift on the tree-shaded, north side of a hill. It was an absolutely immense drift. It may take until July or August
to fully melt. Naturally Leslie had to get a close up look at it. Then naturally looking at it had to devolve into a snowball fight. Good fun.
By our second day at my place the weather started improving. The sun was out and it warmed up enough by afternoon for us to shed our winter coats. Finally we were out of the rain, sleet, hail,
fog and winter chill that had been dogging us most of this month-long trip. It was still pretty cold at night, but it was a big improvement.
I took Leslie out to my top secret petrified wood collecting site out in the badlands. She'd been wanting to see it for herself and hunt around in it. We spent a couple of hours out there. The
local herd of cattle saw us arrive and get out of my truck carrying buckets. They must have thought we were ranchers bringing them fodder. They all trotted over and surrounded my truck, then
looked terribly confused and disappointed as we hiked away into the badlands instead of feeding them. They mooed at our backs forlornly as we hiked off into the badlands. My truck was completely
lost in the herd of cows. I should have taken a picture. I told
Leslie that they were probably licking the truck as we were hiking away. Sure enough, when we got back, there were lick marks and nose prints on the truck. Yuck. Leslie thought they were cute
and resisted washing her window. She called them "Cow Kisses."
Here is the petrified wood we collected on this trip. We found some really good stuff. It's helpful to have a second pair of eyes and a partner who knows what she's looking for. We found some
colorful stuff, some knotty stuff, and some fully agatized stuff (rare for this location). It was a holiday weekend, and the Post offices were all closed. So mailing stuff home wasn't an option.
We did FedEx some stuff back, but much of this wood wound up in my suitcase. It turned out to be over-weight at the airport. DOOP! Oh well. I got the stuff home anyway, and it wasn't mangled
beyond recognition by the Post Office like some previous shipments.
Our last day in Arizona, while we were out exploring, we visited an old ghost town not far from my property. There are a lot of old abandoned buildings and vehicles there. We got a close-up look at this place,
and the old vehicles parked outside it. If anyone knows what the station wagon in the foreground is, I'd be interested in knowing. Faded lettering seemed to say Transhaul, but when I Google Transhaul, all I get
is big rigs and trailers. Nothing that looks like this 1950s-1960s looking station wagon. Email me if you know what it is.
The next day we drove to Albuquerque. I took the scenic route and Leslie got to see a lot of the pretty country between the Zuni Reservation and Grants in New Mexico. We washed all the mud and
"cow kisses" off the truck and checked into a motel for the night. Our flight home wasn't until late the next day. So we had a lot of time to kill. We wound up exploring old-town
Albuquerque on foot. We explored a lot of the shops, toured the museum, and had a leisurely lunch at a nice Mexican restaurant off the plaza. Here Leslie is clowning around in the sculpture garden
outside the museum.
UPDATE: I'm so excited about how well the titanothere teeth and ribs I dug up in the Nebraska Badlands turned out. I'll bet my teeth won't look so good when they are 30 million years old.
I found the bone bed on the afternoon of the last field day of our expedition to the badlands. I dug out the teeth and bone
fragments in great haste, and without as much care as I should have used due to time constraints. I brought back quite a jumble of bone and tooth pieces. From that incomplete mess of a jigsaw
puzzle, Joe was able to reconstruct three teeth and the ends of two ribs.