Tomorrow, I head back home to Guilford, CT. Tonight, we’re staying in the same place we stayed my first night—the Trails End Motel in Sheridan, WY—where freight trains howl along the tracks at the edge of the lot.
Our last two days of sampling have been a mixed success. After drilling forty cores our first day in Casper, we meet with transportation problems. Though many historic roadways surround the city (including the famed Oregon Trail), the one that takes us to our site is unfit for even four-wheel drive. It’s called Sunday Morning Creek Road, but as we drive down it, Taylor quips that it will probably take a whole day to traverse.
Rounding a corner, two hunters in camo drive up on ATVs. They’re here to hunt elk, and they tell us that the best way to our destination is around the back of the hills, not through them.
We take their advice, but patches of private land intersect the roads, and the spiked barbed wire gates dissuade us from trespassing. Taylor will have to try again next year—hopefully with ATVs.
But the day is not wasted. Driving on one of the better roads, Taylor notices tall hills that have pushed up flat pieces of younger (approximately 20 million year old) sediments. After racing to the top, all of our throats hurt from the dry desert air. As he did in Crazy Woman Canyon, Taylor measures the horizontal and vertical orientation of the lifted rock in order to correct his data back to the pre-mountainous landscape.
Looking at the layers of sedimentary rock, Taylor points out stripes of sandstone and limestone. These formations indicate that this arid region was once coved with water, and close inspection reveals trace fossils of worms and seashells. Now, swallows build mud nests where waves once pilled up sand.
That evening we camp by a current body of water—the Platte River—which I recognize from playing the Oregon Trail computer game as a kid. While I’m a little disappointed that we don’t have to caulk the wagon, I’m very glad that our view encompasses river rapids and the setting sun.
On day two, we set out to sample five sites, but some of the dikes we’re looking for have been inferred into the map and are nowhere to be seen. At the second site of the day, Taylor and Joe let me use the Stihl, since Taylor says he can’t let me go back to Connecticut without drilling a rock. It’s my last site, and I’m happy to leave a mark on Wyoming’s geology.
During the past three weeks, I’ve driven ATVs, climbed over mountain passes, camped in the snow, and eaten waffles under a giant T-rex head. Though I’m very sad to leave, I’m lucky enough to be going to Peru for another Yale G&G research project. Thanks to Professors Bercovici and Long, soon I’ll be back in the field and blogging.
The new blog is singularsubduction.wordpress.com. Thank you Suzanne Taylor Muzzin for a great story about the trip at http://bulletin.yale.edu/article.aspx?id=7798&utm_source=ytw&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=9-27-10