Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The Black Elimia Tenera(Previously misidentfied as turetella) of Wamsutter
I steered the truck as Renita eyed the gps, but something seemed wrong, The rockhounding book said that we should be near the black turritella yet the gps coordinates told us we were too far south. Something was definitely screwy!
Renita pointed out a four wheel drive road that I had missed and we turned off the main gravel road, traversing a deep ditch sideways so we wouldn't get high centered. We drove slowly down the rutted two track road, past the black desert pavement,(also the color of black turitella), and Renita suggested we stop and look. It was a good decision as the black colored rock was turritella!
Now the black turritella is highly prized for jewelry making as the black rock is actually chert and its full of the freshwater snail, Elimia tenera(which was first identified as turtitella and then gonobiosis, both saltwater snails). It polishes to a beautiful black sheen filled with cross sections of the fossilized snail.
We had both been worried that such a famous site had been picked clean, which turned out to be a needless worry. We collected several samples and then drove further until Renital yelled out, "Theres a big Rock", which turned out to be another large mass of the fossil.
It seemed to outcrop in lens shaped masses of loose broken up material and we stopped and collected at several places, until we found a place that had so much that we could have filled the truck! Now you are only allowed twenty five pounds of the rock per day so we dumped most of our samples and sorted and sorted looking only for really nice pieces.
I was collecting fossils that had broken free from the matrix when Renita motioned me over, telling me to bring the camera. There, at her feet was a horned toad, its body puffed up in its defense mode. It was showing us its spiny skin as a way of telling us it would be to dangerous to eat,( as if we would want to eat horned toad).
It finally deflated its body and crawled at a gate that would make a porcupine seem a speedster!
We collected our samples and filled our buckets. We had found some brown swirl agate,(actually fossilized algae also used in jewelry), at another stop and so our expedition was a success! We spent the rest of the day driving roads and looking for more sites. Huge antelope bucks stared at us as we passed obviously aware that it wasn't hunting season yet.
It was a day of fun as we arrived back home with more rocks and more weight for the fifth wheel. Clear skies.
ps If you go get the book Rockhounding Wyoming. Do not attempt the back country of the Red Desert if its raining or you will get stuck and your vehicle covered with mud, and that's just on the roads.