Monday, August 10, 2009

The Blue Forest of Wyoming, 2009

I stabbed the shovel into the cracked shale and pried, or tried to. The shovel's handle threatened to break! Some rock almost came out and so I jabbed it again and again, finally pulling out a piece of limey shale. There was some petrified wood in it, so I returned to my digging. Renita came over and took some images as I peeled off layers of clothes. It was cool day, but I was hot and sweating.
Taking a break I looked at her samples, she was surface picking, and she had better stuff than I had dug. It was obvious I was doing something wrong. If only I had some type of subsurface ground penetrating radar, hmmmmm.
Putting the shovel away we both picked on the surface, and we actually found some small fossilized twigs and branches, along with a lot of chalcedony and petrified wood chips. Nice stuff for Renita's jewelry making.
We moved to a new site and picked some more, until we finally had enough wood. As we prepared to leave a pickup drove up with the Washington license plate, "PackRat".
We talked with the couple for a bit and it turned out they were also touched with rock collecting bug and had spent the day in another part of the Blue Forest.
Dick and Patty, from Washington State had been on a trip across the country and had the bed of their pickup filled with rocks. Dick also told us that he had camped here many years ago and had done a lot of digging for blue forest wood.
He showed us how he selected a site to dig, by first using a steel probe. Pushing it into the soft shale he would feel for a clink! It all made sense,(In college I had taken petrology class and after reading thirty some pages of the most boring description of identifying characteristics of shale versus slate, the book said if it clinks its slate and if it clunks its shale)! Dick was probing for the clink of silicified petrified wood!
He kindly let me take some images of his tools and of his digging. He explained how the best wood was inside a concretion, and showed how he used a large steel chisel to break it apart. It was obvious that my shovel just wasn't enough for the job.
Taking a break Dick and Patty showed us the beautiful turetella they had collected in Wamsutter. They even shared the gps coordinates with us and talked of meeting an Escapees group, the rock hounding birds of a feather at another site,(Escapees has many clubs, one of birds and rocks and just about everything, called birds of a feather of bof).
Thanking them, we let them continue their prospecting and as we drove away we talked of how lucky we were to have just had a great lesson on collecting techniques. It was obvious that Dick is an expert! Tired and sore, from all the bending over, we returned home to our guard dogs delight! More rocks for the fifth wheel! Clear skies.

ps The area gets its name from the blue color of the chalcedony, caused by a small amount of tin impurities. You are allowed to collect twenty five pounds a day and you must fill in your hole, a new regulation. The gps coordinates are 42.020 N latitude and 109.910 West longitude. Trust me, you will see all the digging holes and piles of rock.

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