Finally, now that the polar votices seem to have gone on their merry ways, I can get back to what’s important. Exactly right: finding fossils and minerals everywhere.
While waiting (forever) to be called into load some glass headed to Michigan, I noticed some large chunks of yellowish, beige limestone along a bank that looks to be used for flood drainage leading out of an industrial area and curving away from a residential. When you’re in eastern Kansas and see that, that means you are almost guaranteed to find some marine fossils. Of course, I then did find some.
Here you will predominantly find neospirifer (300 mya brachiopods) shell bits, but there are also fairly complete ones, too, up to approximately 2 cm, many of which have a pinkish hue which is cool. Additionally, there are crinoid columnals, mostly small, but I did come across a specimen with a diameter of about 1.3 cm. Unfortunately, it will have to remain where it is until I can cut it out of this extremely hard rock. I would have destroyed it with a hammer and chisel…
Here’s my first half decent find of the season, a Pennsylvanian aged (299-318 mya) columnal, which is the stem to many species of crinoids and blastoids, echinoderms, related to starfish.
Pinkish neosprifers are all over the place here.
This location is off KS-7 and 199th st. Take 7 east and turn left onto 199th. It curves and becomes webster. Take a left before reaching Sonic. Turn right onto Lincoln and go to the cul de sac. Bank with limestone bedrock on your right.
Where to next?
Off I-84, exit 173 near Jerome and Twin Falls, Idaho there is a Flying J. At this Flying J, there is likely a wide expanse of vesicular basalt, aka lava rock, under the fields surrounding it. No need to go digging, there are already piles of it for the exploring.
Knowing that the basalts of Washington can house some zeolites, ie natrolite, apophyllite, stilbite, etc, I hoped that Idaho might produce for me.
After, getting past the guardian of the fields with some kind words…
I proceeded to one of the piles of basalt where I immediately found limestone attached to it. Obviously, magma can reach the surface underwater, too, as limestone is an indication that a body of water was present.
The limestone you’ll find comes in several forms including oolitic, massive encrustations, stalactitic, and possibly botryoidal (meaning grape-like). I use “possibly” because the botryoidal specimen i found may not be limestone. It may be aragonite (which is basically chemically the same), or it could indeed be a zeolite (either thomsonite or mordenite). The problem is it’s often difficult to tell and not monetarily valuable enough to get tested. I’ll check with Jason at the rock shop back home Earth, Wind, Fire, & Ice, or with James at the Rock Shop in Rolla, MO.
Small stalactitic limestone plate.
Even smaller botryoidal somethingite sitting in a vug where a gas bubble formerly lived.
Where to next?
On the way home from Arkansas, where my wife and I attended my company’s Driver of the Month Banquet (I’m Mr. September, btw), we stopped in the Buffalo Valley Service area off I-40 in Tennessee. First, I really have to say that this is a beautiful place with a great view. You can fish here, picnic, hike some, or even sleep in the parking lot like we did (of course, we were in the truck). I have a panoramic pic that I put up on the Treasure Hunting Trucker Facebook page if you’d like to see the view. And yes, that is a ploy to get you to like that page and follow me.
So why am I posting today? One, because I found fossils in the limestone being used as the support for the bench outside the information center. They’re just bits of broken stuff, but it means it’s worth the time to go check out when I actually have the time.
Two, because I need to tell you that no matter where I’ve gone this winter, all I’ve been finding is snow. It’s everywhere. Rockhounding is a seasonal sport up north, but this year everywhere from Nova Scotia all the way down to Texas has been covered in white. I can’t even see rocks. Bring on the summer already. Somebody, shoot that groundhog.
Three, and I’ll also be posting this on FB, I’m getting THT tee-shirts made. Let me know if you’re interested. I’ll post the design when it’s done.
Where to next?
Today was productive. I made it to the Green River formation so I could hopefully find some Eocene fish fossils. I did find the right type of rock matrix, but I found most everything else other than the fish.
Take exit 41 off I-80 in Lyman, Wyoming, and go to the rest area. To the east there is the pet walking section. Yes, go there and explore past it.
Here it is possible to find Elimia tenera (gastropods or snails), plant fossils, colorful cherts, magnesite, and possibly fish pieces. For the fossils, you should bring a hammer and a flat head screwdriver so you can split the sedimentary matrix down the sides into thinner plates. For splitting rock into thinner plates, I’ve found that a flat head screwdriver works better than a chisel as it’s thinner and therefore less destructive.
A nice grouping of Elimia tenera. I have the negative side, too, which is nice.
Plants I’ll probably never identify…
A little bit of magnesite caught me off guard. I was finding splinters of it and originally thought they were tiny bits of permineralized wood. But they weren’t. They were tiny bits of magnesite.
Here’s something that doesn’t make sense to me. This is chert. It’s a funky, waxy feeling type of cryptocrystalline quartz. It solidifies at high temps and yet there seems to be crinoid fossil imprints. Secondly, I’m in a former freshwater lake and crinoids like salt. Obviously, this must be a pseudofossil, but I still don’t know what it is. I’ll update if I figure it out.
Where to next?
Most people don’t think about the sacrifices rockhounds make just to further science as well as one’s collection. Well, sort of…we kinda just go about doing what we’re doing and then realize afterward what our losses were in doing so. It’s a loose definition used by bohemian wordsmiths…right.
On I-80 headed east just inside Utah a few miles there is a rest area. Park here and head out to the large expanse of white land. That’s the salt. Here, you can find natural crystals of halite, predominantly white, but some are salmon colored. What you need to do is find something half buried in the murky wettish salt and pull it carefully out of the ground. Look around its sides and underneath for the salt cubes. Remove the chunks of salt you prefer and place somewhere to dry.
Warning (here’s where I did all my sacrificing): I at first thought that I’d dry out the rocks that I pulled out of the salt and bring the whole thing home with me as a more impressive specimen. No. A more impressive specimen should never smell like a diaper full of Indian food. Underneath the salt is nasty, nasty muck. Really nasty, awful smelling muck. Do not put in your car. Do not handle more than necessary unless wearing gloves. After washing my hands three times with tons of soap and scalding water, they looked clean and smelled horrid. I ate the worst ham sandwich of my life after this. Eat your ham sandwich before you go out. Also, I had to throw out my shoes so that my truck wouldn’t reek forever. It was like throwing out a pair of good friends…
The halite cubes run from a couple millimeters to almost a centimeter. This piece has smaller crystals but with nice luster.
Four specimens survived the ordeal of being extracted and dried. Hopefully, they’ll survive twelve days in the truck, too.
Where to next?
Although my wife is sick of petrified wood coming into our house, I am far from sick of collecting it. In the spot I usually check out (exit 300 off I-40), I spent a quick hour and filled half of a sandcastle bucket with pw.
Looks just like a regular old piece of 208 mya permineralized wood.
Well, it is, but it has quartz crystals covering one side of it. Yes, that is cool.
I’m probably either going to have to give a bunch of this away or figure out something creative to do with it all. Maybe I’ll replace all the kitchen cabinet handles with pw…my wife would likely ground me if I did that…I’ll figure something out I’m sure.
Where to next?
This is another quick report about the area surrounding the Flying J fuel station on 129th st.
I only had a few moments to look around before it would be dark enough that I wouldn’t be able very well, so I didn’t go into the pit area along the street where I’ve gone previously. This time I hung out behind the parked trucks. Within twenty minutes I found two of the longest and fattest crinoid columnals I’ve ever seen.
Using my hand for scale you can get an idea of just how long this 300mya crinoid stem is.
This one is even longer, though there’s a broken section towards the bottom. It appears that the upper middle section is buried within the rock and pops out again at the top.
Both of these specimens are almost a full inch in diameter. They were also both in very large, not-going-anywhere-sized rocks. So, I left them there with the hope of bringing a gas-powered circular saw back someday so that I can extract without destroying them.
Where to next?