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Castles in the Sky
Spring has arrived, and so has the fossil collecting season! It’s time to build those castles in the sky! What rare discoveries will be made? Will I find a new dinosaur species, a long lost tetrapod that will re-write evolution, or a giant trilobite mass mortality plate? Oh how wonderful it is to dream, to have illusions of grandeur.
The first planned trip of 2011 was a modest one. I was to head back to St. Clair. The mission was to find a better fern plate than what was found last trip. I knew I may be hunting unicorns, but that’s what makes fossil hunting fun. If nice fossils were easy to find, it would get boring!
Every time I have driven to this fern site, I noticed arrays of trailers unloading quads and dirt bikes. The quad paths through the abandoned mines must be extensive. They also run through the fern pit. So, I figured, instead of parking and huffing it to the fern site, I would try to drive. How difficult could it be? Soon my SUV (without off road tires) and I were bouncing through the quad paths. Four thoughts were going through my mind as I wandered the quad paths: “Don’t get stuck in the mud,” “Don’t hit bottom,” “Don’t pop a tire,” and “Don’t break an axel!” Actually, a fifth thought kept crossing my mind more so than the rest, “Don’t accidentally drive onto the shooting range!” Eventually I arrived at the fern pit. I realized it would have been faster if I walked in. However, I would not have hike the ferns out of the pit!
Once there, I scanned the area, looking for a good spot to find a potential famous white fern plate. Once a spot was found, I hunkered down and got ready to spend a couple hours digging out a big slab. It’s all or nothing for me, slabs fewer than 2 feet don’t count!
A few hours later (that’s including much time spent procrastinating) the slab was ready to be lifted. Would it be a large frond with dozens of fern specimens all bright white? Or worst case, would it be an empty slab? Once lifted, it wasn’t quite worse case, but it did not contain ferns. Instead, there was a large tree branch (maybe Cordaites?) running dead center down the plate. Unfortunately, when a large branch like this runs across the shale, it usually disrupts the rest of the matrix. I did not find my unicorn. If only I dug two foot to the right, I may have found it!
After that disappointment, I spent the little energy I had left sorting smaller debris, searching for less common specimens.
On the bright side, I experimented with my new HD video editing software and made two short videos, then I realized I had to completely destroy the resolution and bit rate to make them manageable for the website!