Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Today and Yesterday

We had nothing else to do last Sunday so I pulled out the shotgun, forced the wife and children into the Subaru, and drove out to the eastern edge of the Coast Range to go fossil hunting.

To be exact, we went to two of the locations shown on the map to the left: first, to #6:
"A fossiliferous outcrop of the Keasey Formation occurs in a prominent cut along the Nehalem River on the east side of the road from Timber to Vernonia, 3.0 miles north of the junction with Sunset Highway. The locality is about 3 miles south of Locality 5. Large pelecypods of the genus Thyasira are found at this outcrop."
And, sure enough, that's just what we found.

The little peeps were excited about finding fossils but what was fun was watching them get excited in their own ways.

Little Miss stuck close to her mama, working the talus at the base of the slope along the highway, patiently looking over every rock and shard, exclaiming in her high little voice every time she found a bitty fragment of white shell or rounded thing that looked like a clam shell.

The Boy scampered up the hill right behind me, poking here and there but really wanting something big and gaudy. He got his shoes completely filthy.

Fortunately for both of them Daddy had been there before and knew right where to look to find the Good Stuff.

That's a Thyasira Missy's holding; a 23-million-year-old chowder clam.

Here's both the urchins with some of their finds:

The other visit was to "Trestle Quarry", stop #8 on the map, which is described in Steere (1957) as
"An abundantly fossiliferous zone in the Keasey formation is exposed in the cliffs at both ends of a high-curving railroad trestle which crosses Oregon State Highway 47 between Sunset Highway and Vernonia. The trestle is 6.2 miles north of Sunset Highway and about 8~ miles south of Vernonia. There is a parking space beside the highway at the base of this trestle. To reach the fossil localities at either end of the trestle climb a steep foot trail to the railroad bed above and continue along the tracks for a short distance. Many well-preserved fossil shells of Oligocene age may be collected from outcrops along the railroad. Fossil crinoids have been discovered at both ends of the trestle. About .2 mile beyond the north end of the trestle and adjacent to the railroad is the Smithwick Haydite quarry in which Keasey shale is freshly exposed and fossils are unweathered. Permission should be obtained to hunt for fossils in the quarry."
Yeah, well, that was then.

Today the old railroad grade is part of one of those rails-to-trails parks, and the State of Oregon has put the old quarry off-limits to fossil hunters. I found that out the hard way when, taking my Portland Community College historical geology class up there one autumn I was stopped, lectured, and cited by Mister Ranger. Somewhere I have the ticket I was issued warning me that if I was ever caught fossil-red-handed again I'd be fined and presumably spanked by the Parks Fossil Nanny.

Curiously, since my fighting-the-Fossil-Law-and-the-Fossil-Law-winning the Parks people have evidently give up trying to maintain the trail through the old quarry site. A new, fancy paved trail leads up the bluff and skirts the old quarry and the abandoned railway grade.

The forest is reclaiming the trail and the quarry. There isn't even a sign posting the old trail and adjacent high slope as out of bounds, and both are now very untenanted and becoming overgrown...

...and even the talus along the trail was pretty lean pickings from the glory days of yore when I came back from the trestle with the Dentalium, Thyasira, and Anadara that now sit patiently on my desk waiting for me to return from the field...

But for all their moaning I think the kiddos had fun. I did, oddly, exercising a skill I seldom use anymore and teaching younger people about the yesterday buried deeply in the voiceless hills and silent slope we speed past on our way to some urgently transient today.


Leon said...

Your son looks less than pleased with his finds...

Tell him 1/1 people who read and follow his dad's posts think that this is awesome. And 1/1 people know some stuff.

FDChief said...

I think it was the combination of dirt in his shoes and having to pose with his pesky sister. He was actually pretty jazzed about his fossils...