Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Farson Fish Beds and the Opalized Wood of Big Sandy

The dust was absent, for once. usually a trip down a road in the Red desert causes billowing clouds of fine white dust and sand and the dust seems to get in everywhere.
The road we were on was surprisingly good gravel with only a short stretch of dirt. Still we would watch for a developing rain thunderstorm.
I kept my eyes on the odometer while Renita watched for landmarks. We were looking for grey and brown piles of shale, left by collectors, and yes thieves, who had pillaged the Farson Fish Beds,(It is against the law to collect any vertebrate fossil on public land).
Just after we had drove eleven miles the piles of rock appeared alongside the road and stretched to a low rolling sagebrush covered ridge. We saw the BLM warning signs and we were at our destination, the Farson Fish Beds!
Knowing we couldn't collect anything but pictures we pulled over at a fork on the four wheel drive track. The ever present aroma of sage assailed our nostrils as we started to search the nearest piles of rock. At first we only found fish scales where the fish had exploded as they decomposed but Renita suggested we look further from the truck and I found my first fish fossil!
Soon the fish fossils seemed to jump out at us and I took images of them. I was pretty happy really as they were the first complete fish fossils I had ever found in thirty plus years of field trips with my geology classes.
We left the fossils where they lay, before the temptation overpowered our good sides. I don't think either one of us would do time well, and the real purpose of the trip was to find some opalized wood from Big Sandy.
The book said to turn around and head south until we found a four wheel drive track that headed west and Renita spotted it before me. I really doubted that it was the right path, but I turned off the main road and soon a stock dam and low ridge lay to the northeast.
As soon as I got out I spotted some petrified wood and we both were soon busy scouring the spaces between the sage. Beautiful quartzite slicks were everywhere, they are actually called ventifacts, which are rocks polished by the desert winds, but the days hunt was for opalized wood and it didn't take long before we both were near our twenty five pound daily limit.
Dropping the tailgate of the truck we shared a water bottle and handed each other our finds. We returned most of the quartzite to the desert after making sure they weren't jade slicks. I told Renita how I had almost stepped on a horny toad and she expressed her wish that she had seen it, of course she had the camera.
Backtracking we reached the main road, our next destination Big Sandy Reservoir and the agatized algae beds. The road skirted the south side of Eden Reservoir and we reached the Big Sandy Road and turned north. The dam appeared and we could see a highway, 191, in the distance.
There were campers parked on both sides of the lake and so we drove to the nearest campground where we parked. Renita showed me the pictures in the guidebook and I could see that the cliffs alongside the lake were the same ones pictured, we were there!
Renita found the first piece of agatized algae, but when I hit it with my rock hammer, the Eastwing easily fractured the rock and we both knew it was too soft and too fractured to work on the lapidary machines. Never the less we both found some interesting chalcedony, interlaced with opal, and so we added these to our days finds, more rocks for the fifth wheel!
The drive back to the campground was a lot easier as we weer able to cross the dam and reach the highway. I took some pictures and gps coordinates to submit to Days End, as the short bit of gravel road led to some nice boondocking spots.(Days End is an Escapee listing of free places to camp). We had just joined it and part of the price of admission is the requirement to add to the list of free or cheap spots.
Molly greeted us at the door, her tail wagging with happiness as the pack had returned! We had left her home as she had been sick and we thought that a day in air conditioning would be better for her then a day in the hot desert sun. We were both tired from hauling rocks under a hot desert sun and so we left the rocks in the back of the truck. it was time for a siesta! Clear skies.

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