Probably the coolest thing that Marco and I did before we started a shift one day was going fossil hunting. And to quote an old MASH episode “and I didn’t even know they were in season“.

We decided one morning, on the way back from the observatory, that we should try to get up early and head out into the mountains. We had checked the internet and found three different potential sites, one being an BLM quarry. BLM stands for Bureau of Land Management and this quarry was supposed to be free to use.

Later that day, after having slept for a few hours, we got the GPS coordinates and left the motel. The fist stop was a hardware store to pick up a couple of hammers and some other supplies and then we headed out.

First we drove along I50 for about 30-40 minutes at, well let’s just say that my crazy Italian Mario Andretti wannabe boss almost kept the speed limit. Almost being the operative word. Then we left the nicely paved road and started driving on dirt roads. This went on for another 40-50 minutes, again when distance driven is estimated the crazy Italian Mario Andretti factor should be taken into account.

After about an hour and a half into our adventure we had missed the final right turn. Fortunately we’d only missed it by half a kilometre so it was no big loss doubling back. However, when we saw the (now left turn) we realised why we missed it… To begin with it was a very small road and secondly it was going down a slope into a ravine. To add to the unease I was starting to feel about taking this road we not only had do drive down into the ravine but shortly thereafter we would need to climb out of it, yes I use the word climb even if it needed to be done with a car. Now this would not have been an issue if we’d had a real car, like a Land Rover, but our rental was a Chrysler 200 or something… Definitely not an all terrain vehicle…

We were still about 1.4 km from the BLM quarry and I was thinking maybe we should walk, but Marco insisted on trying to drive up the mountainous slope. Now in my mind there were two issues with this. The first being that the car would roll over and I would have to drag Marco out of a burning wreck. Yes, I got out of the car for his cross country experience. The second thing, setting aside the explosion risk since we had an American car, was that IF something happened to the car we would be without means of transportation or communication (no mobile phone coverage) and literally in middle of nowhere. Luckily luck was on our side, so far, and Marco managed to drive up the slope of the ravine and we could continue our journey towards the quarry.

After a very bumpy ride the GPS finally told us that we were in the right place. Unfortunately there was no quarry at the coordinates… However across another ravine we saw some potential places where we surely would find some rocks. If they contained any fossil was a later problem.
So we got our hammers and started walking. It was easy to get there and we started surveying the area. This was also the time that we realised that non of us actually had any idea of what we were searching for. I only knew that the rocks we were supposed to look for were black.

So for about 20 minutes we often called out saying that there might be one in this stone. However, we were probably just going slightly crazy and seeing patterns where there were non. But then, suddenly, I found the first jack-pot! In one small stone you could clearly see the remains of three different Trilobites (see three red arrows in the picture below).
After that find more fossils started to make them selves known and we found many more. The best find of the day was mine.
The fossils we searched for and found are in the vicinity of 521 000 000 years old.

After having spent about 1.5 hours searching for fossils we decided it was time to head back. Especially if we wanted to have time to visit a fossil store in Delta before we were to meet our colleagues. The drive back from the site was not as eventful as the trig getting there. Although, it might have been but I was so used to Marcos driving by then.

The fossil shop in Delta was very nice. Lots of cool fossils and a very nice owner of the shop. We spent some time looking around and talking but finally we had to go back to the motel to start the working day.