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My wife and I went on a 7500+ mile ramble to break out of our COVID doldrums.  Due to the virus we had to change up many of our original plans... which conversely added a number of additional fossil hunting locals as they allowed us to mostly avoid our fellow humans and maintain social distancing by many many miles.  As part of our trip preparations my wife sewed us a number of masks, including a whole series of fossil hunting masks for me.  

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Originally we were supposed to stay in Chicago, but we elected to avoid staying in the city, so we only got to do a drive by

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We started the trip with a bonus dig, meeting up with fellow forum member @minnbuckeye for a guided Ordovician hunt in Fennimore, Wisconsin (THANKS MIKE!)  Unfortunately I neglected to take pics of the site so I will only be able to share a farm pic we passed on the way.  

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Mike was a gracious host who kicked off the visit with a gift of several fossil samples from his home turf

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As with all of the fossils from this trip, all finds are as they arrived back home, no prep.  Some of our finds from Fennimore:

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After our visit with Mike, we were able to do a little compare and contrast of a couple of local creameries to evaluate the freshness of the curds (the squeakier the better) as well as fresh ice cream.  Tough job, but someone had to do it.

 

Once we finished in Wisconsin we headed out across Minnesota (the hottest state, on a trip that included Oklahoma and Texas in June)  Where we also visited the "iconic" Spam museum before heading to Sioux Falls

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On our trek across South Dakota we stopped for a visit to the Buffalo National Grasslands to look for petrified wood and shiny rocks near Railroad Butte

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A big impetus for this trip was because a couple of years back I said when I hit the half century mark I would use my midlife crisis to try something stupid for an out of shape desk jockey...

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So that's what I did.  We headed for Devils Tower and I made my first ever rock climb

055.thumb.jpg.9aa5fbf1f4429efd954c63e122d0f337.jpg Reggie - the official mascot of our ramble

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049.thumb.jpg.de24a27fef77cc1e70e373216ccdf0fb.jpg about 600 ft up, good place for a selfie

047.thumb.jpg.e82dded9a26cc074db757d27a1d386fe.jpgstaring up the bent column of the Durrance route

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053.thumb.jpg.5c7b74e9432e5c874d1a024ce4bf2530.jpg048.thumb.jpg.b77ed550886fd9a4961084e9290064f0.jpg - that last shot was my favorite. A perfect natural juniper bonsai that most people will never get a chance to see in person.

 

After DT we headed north for Glendive, Montana.  Originally this was supposed to be for my 1st dinosaur dig, but the dig guides packed it in for the season due to COVID so we had to improvise with the upper cretaceous of the Pierre Shale south of town

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I love the fact that Montana has perfectly graded state routes that aren't paved but drive better than many of the highways in my home state of PA

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The scenery out west is worth the price of admission and I love photographing it.  I tried to limit the number of non-fossil pics, but I hope others appreciate the sites on the way to some of these places almost as much as the fossils we hunt when we get there.  I also love the flora and fauna so I will be including some samples of those as well

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062.thumb.jpg.ca8d8548f506fe637e1e97179c18a39b.jpg I love these lilies and they are scattered throughout all the grassland and scrub areas we were visiting

063.thumb.jpg.d62215bcdd918351af82624f63ccb779.jpg064.thumb.jpg.bc2ca680aabdef2ea02b36fd35f82533.jpg The little slice of grey dirt hillside to the left in the last shot was our primary hunting site

 

 

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A likely spot

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My wife working on extracting her rock of choice from the hillside

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Reggie standing guard and the rock rolled out free and ready for breakdown

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My first ammonite made an appearance in the first chunk to break off... a great way to start out a dig

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Interestingly the rock and many seams throughout are covered in yellow/orange selenite (or possibly calcite and/or barite) crystals.  As you can see we brought home a few samples. Figured kids would love them as giveaway items and maybe a piece or two will find their way into a future auction as many also have fossils on the flip side

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Voids in the fossils are also coated in the crystals and many still have some of their mother of pearl finish, though I found it was much easier to see in person than it was to photograph

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Note the tiny ammo completely buried under the crystals in the previous shot

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As much as I loved finding the ammonites, the bacculites may actually have been more spectacular.  Many also have the nacre as well as heavy coatings of crystals in their internal chambers.  The first example below is a good showcase of both

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There are also bivalve and other shells to be found, the trick is finding (mostly) complete samples

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After Glendive was a cross state drive along the Yellowstone river for the opportunity to search for sapphires at a mine in Philipsburg.  The mine is on what some have tagged the loneliest road in Montana, a beautiful lane and a half wide 30+ mile gravel road full of waterfalls and steep dropoffs without a guard rail to be found.  We drove it a day after storms so had to navigate around a total of 4 downed trees just to make the ride more interesting

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120.jpg.7b2bd52041a381c696fc8c26824e95bd.jpg Our haul from the mine. We only got through half our pay gravel, so I still have 2 buckets worth to go through here at home when we have time

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Next we headed north past the Mission Mountains, Flathead Lake and up to Glacier Park for some site seeing

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Only the first 11 miles of Glacier was open to vehicles so we took to the air for a different perspective  The ceiling was a little low, but views were amazing

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After driving south along the western side of the Tetons and staying overnight in Idaho we crossed over the Tetons to Jackson Hole and headed south, south-east to look for some blue petrified wood.

 

The sky got rather ominous looking the closer we got

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We saw many pronghorn and a few sage grouse along the way, even the cactus was in full bloom

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We were only able to collect for a little over an hour because lightning started arcing across the sky and you could smell the rain coming, which hit as we were frantically trying to reload the car.  So it wasn't much of a blue wood stop, but at least we didn't leave completely empty handed

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Next up was Kemmerer for some fossil fishing.  Unfortunately mother nature had other plans.  On our way into town we received word that the outfit I had arranged to go on a night dig with cancelled (2nd trip in a row).  When we woke the next morning, the quarry we were supposed to go after split fish at called to say they were closing for the day because they had 4 inches of fresh snow on top of several inches of mud the rain had left.  This was the low point of the trip for me, so my wife decided we should take a tour of the local rock shops to see if I could find anything interesting.  While visiting one I struck up a conversation with a local and told them my tale of woe and disappointment.  I must have been convincing despite my mask covered face, and low and behold it turned out I had struck up a conversation with a local who had a leased claim with access to the 18" layer.  (He asked not to be named, so I won't say who it was, but they were an awesome host, very knowledgeable about not only the local fossils, but several of our planned stops for later in the trip.  We met up later that evening and headed out to the claim early to look for leaves and bugs before dark.  After dark we spent almost 5 hours prying up large sections of the 18" layer.  Meeting that kind gentleman saved my Kemmerer stay and finally gives me the opportunity to try prepping out a larger fish for my collection

 

The snow didn't last long at the hotel, but we also didn't get as much down near the highway.  It was still disconcerting in June.  I actually had to buy a heavier outer layer to do the night dig as I was not prepared for sub-freezing temperatures when I packed for the trip

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 Cutting out fish and trimming slabs to pry up

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And now for a whole lot of "not much to see here", at least until I get to prepping.   It's amazing how little of some of these is visible without darkness and the soft glow of a camping lantern

 

Nice double, 2 species, 1 @ 6-7 inches and 1 @ over 8

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4-5 inch Priscacara

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9 inch

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Leaf

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Mass mortality of very tiny fish

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Should be a complete 17+ inch diplomystus

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multiple on front plus one on the back

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Needs some repair, but both halves 

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another multi-plate

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a small knightia peeking through

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hadrosauridae
6 minutes ago, RandyB said:

Next up was Kemmerer for some fossil fishing.  Unfortunately mother nature had other plans.  On our way into town we received word that the outfit I had arranged to go on a night dig with cancelled (2nd trip in a row).  When we woke the next morning, the quarry we were supposed to go after split fish at called to say they were closing for the day because they had 4 inches of fresh snow on top of several inches of mud the rain had left.  This was the low point of the trip for me, so my wife decided we should take a tour of the local rock shops to see if I could find anything interesting.  While visiting one I struck up a conversation with a local and told them my tale of woe and disappointment.  I must have been convincing despite my mask covered face, and low and behold it turned out I had struck up a conversation with a local who had a leased claim with access to the 18" layer.  (He asked not to be named, so I won't say who it was, but they were an awesome host, very knowledgeable about not only the local fossils, but several of our planned stops for later in the trip.  We met up later that evening and headed out to the claim early to look for leaves and bugs before dark.  After dark we spent almost 5 hours prying up large sections of the 18" layer.  Meeting that kind gentleman saved my Kemmerer stay and finally gives me the opportunity to try prepping out a larger fish for my collection

 

The snow didn't last long at the hotel, but we also didn't get as much down near the highway.  It was still disconcerting in June.  I actually had to buy a heavier outer layer to do the night dig as I was not prepared for sub-freezing temperatures when I packed for the trip

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Wow, what a trip!  I see that you were at Kemmerer at the same time as Ptychodus and myself!  

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