Saturday, July 10, 2010

Red Agate and Banded Flint, The Southeast side of Cedar Mountain

Last year we met David and Nancy, two full timers who camped next to us and who were also rock hounds. They were interested in finding agates and so we showed them our guidebook, Rockhounding Wyoming, and they decided to check out a couple of sites on the southeast face of Cedar Mountain.
That night Nancy came over and showed us the beautiful agate that she had found! She excitedly told us it was the best agate she had ever found and thanked us for heading them in the right direction. Of course we were as jealous as you could be and so all winter we talked about going to the southeast face of Cedar Mountain.
Now the guidebook tells about finding red jasper on Cedar Mountain and also about the banded flint of Mckinnon and as both are on the same road, we packed our lunch and headed out for a day looking for more rocks.
Turning on Sweetwater county road 1 I forgot to check my mileage and so things were already kind of shaky, but luckily there are very few roads off the blacktop and so we found the right gravel road.
It was actually a pretty good road for the Red Desert, thank goodness it was dry, and we soon started seeing nodules of red and black cert everywhere. Stopping we walked the first spot and both had quite a bit of red chert. Being selective we threw most of it away, keeping some for a closer inspection at camp, and continued down the road.
Badlands topography appeared, caused by eroded horizontal rock layers forming a dendritic pattern, and as the book talked of finding fossil turtle shell, we had to stop and look. In the distance we could see a lonely ranch house and we both wondered at the toughness of the people that had homesteaded such a remote spot.
I parked the truck and headed to the badlands while Renita looked near the parking spot. Of course red jasper was everywhere and I lifted a ten pound boulder that showed some promise. The question was, did I really want to carry it all the way back? Deciding it wasn't that impressive I left it and continued on looking for the elusive turtle shell.
I crossed several ridges and walked draws looking for small pieces of shell. See one way to find fossils if to walk the draws and look for small fragments and then to follow their trail, looking for the in situ site,(the place where the main shell was still embedded in the rock).
No fragments and no shells jumped out in front of me and so I made a loop and walked back to the truck. Of course Renita had a pile of rocks on the back bumper, but nothing spectacular and so we released them and headed to the main road.
Our next goal was to find the high line and the banded flint of Mckinnon. It was pretty easy spot to locate and I didn't have to use four wheel drive as we turned off the main road by driving into the steep ditch and down the two track path.
Stopping at the first hillside we parked the truck and found the hillside covered with banded flint. Black chert, with swirls of yellow were everywhere and it became a question of looking for the perfect piece. See we pick first and then only take the best pieces back to Texas and the lapidary shop. Even then we end up hauling a lot of, "Junk", as our friend Dick Cline, kindly descibes it.
Black storm clouds began to threaten and so we left the site heading for Mckinnon and Manila, Utah. A forest service road beckoned but there was no way we were going to travel it with a storm and heavy rains approaching. We have heard too many stories of friends who took such roads and ended uo being ,mired in mud, sometimes even for days!
It was a pretty drive, Mckinnon actually has a school, and we found another road to Spirit Lake. We arrived back at Buckboard crossing and looked at the samples we had collected. It really wasn't an impressive haul for a day and we agreed that the road to Butcherknife Draw had the same rocks and more promise.
Still, just about any day in the field is a good day and so we were glad we had traveled the southeast face of Cedar Mountain. While we wouldn't go back to the sites we picked, the four wheel drive road near Mckinnon is another question. Is it worth the return drive or should we go next to the Blue Forest? Clear skies.

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