Before we could start our explorations we had to get there. Here is a shot getting on the plane for the second and last leg from Denver to Rapid City South Dakota. I am of course in my favorite pose ;-). I also got a shot of Mark and Dr. Boolootian getting of the plane from that leg.
Of course calling this trip a "dinosaur" trip over simplifies by quite a bit. Our first stop was to a couple of gold mines. The first was the Broken Boot Gold Mine. This is a mine that was worked during the late 1800s. We got to go in and see what conditions were like for miners during that time. Pretty brutal. Sorry, but I didn't have a flash so I couldn't take pictures inside the mine. However, I could get some shots of our panning for gold after we finished our inside explorations.
Our other gold mine exploration was at the operating Homestake Gold Mine. That mine is notable for the 5,000 feet of cable that they use to haul the ore up and miners up and down to the lowest levels of the mine. We learned that their cable stretches about one foot a week (!! - which has to be cut off). They inspect the cable and replace it regularly. It has to run from the cable room (above) out through the open air (notice the ski resort in the background) into another building where they have the elevators.
Before leaving Rapid City we went to the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and visited their Museum of Geology. There we got our first taste of dinosaur fossils like this albertosaurus skeleton. While quite a nice museum, we had much more intimate experiences with dinosaurs later in Wyoming.
On the second day of our trip we started our journey toward Wyoming. First stop along that leg was a visit to "Bear Country", a wild animal park. We saw big bears and little bears (and wolves) and many other animals. Here is also a shot of our own little shavers.
Next stop was "Wind Cave". Without a flash I couldn't get many inside pictures, but I did take some like this one of Claire looking into the natural entrance and feeling the wind. Also, here is a shot of Mark walking toward the visitor's center. This picture of some of the crystal formations in Wind Cave didn't come out too badly despite the lack of light.
Next on our journey were brief stops at Mount Rushmore (where I also shot this more direct shot and this one of Washington's profile) and at the Crazy Horse memorial. During this part of the journey I also took this shot of Jamie with a bison (sorry I cut off her feet :-().
Our first fossil stop was at a Mammoth Site. This was where many juvenile male mammoths fell into a sink hole about 26,000 years ago. Some of the fossils are amazingly complete - like this one they called "Napoleon Bone-apart". This site was pretty amazing because all the fossils are in a very small area. They were able to put a roof over the whole site. In my pictures you can see workers excavating further. Here is one worker who looked like he was having a good time. Here is a look to the west as we entered, and back to the east looking at the children entering. During part of the demonstration the children got to hold some bone casts - like this jawbone Claire is holding up. I also got a shot of Claire with "Sinbad" a full sized (definitely) mammoth skeleton. Highlights of this part of the trip included a simulated excavation and a trip behind the scenes into the basement where we saw how they processed large bones and tiny bones. Here is a shot of most of the children as they waited for the simulated dig.
Next we crossed into Wyoming at Lusk where we stayed in the Covered Wagon Motel where we stayed for our three nights in Lusk. We had a great time there with the swimming pool, hot tub, and sauna (mostly me in the sauna...). We spent a little bit of time looking around the small town of Lusk. To give you a bit of the flavor, here is the Sheriff's report from the Lusk Herald for June 29 - July 8:
Served nine civil papers Performed four vehicle inspections Served two subpoenas Investigated a larceny report Responded to a motorist assist near Node for a tire that blew out on a Winnebago Investigated a report of vandalism to an oil well Issued three citations for clinging to the roof of a moving vehicleThis section of the trip was the heart of the dinosaur area, being in the "Lance" formation that was from the late Cretaceous. Our guide during this part of the trip was Markus Erickson, an amateur fossil collector who hopes to start a museum some day. We traveled through the wide open prairies in this caravan lead by the "Museum Works" van belonging to Markus. Here is what it looked like with the caravan in motion. We never knew what we would see during these long journeys across the prairie, like this antelope or later this porcupine road kill that we stopped to examine. This short grass prairie country was beautiful. You can get a bit of an idea in this picture of a sculpted pillar on the prairie. Also while out on the prairie we got to have lunch at an homestead from the late 1800's that was abandoned in the 1920s.
Before we really got into the dinosaur fossil part of our explorations, the owner of the land, Stan Swanson, gave us a chance to meet the herd of bison that he ranches. He took us out on a flat bed trailer that he circled with food for the bison. Once they got close enough we could feed them ourselves. It was quite a large herd as you can see in this picture including a bull rolling over. The large bulls were quite impressive as in this side shot of one and in this head on shot of one.
The first part of the dinosaur fossil exploration was a trip to a lag deposit site. There were fossil bones all over the place here, like this alligator tooth with roots that Faye found. When we found pieces relevant for research like that one Markus kept them to send on to researchers. Most of the pieces, however, we were able to keep for ourselves. There were pieces of fossilized turtle everywhere. One girl found a velociraptor tooth. I found an alligator tooth without the root that I brought home. I also got part of a vertebra from a triceratops and part of a skull also. The fossils in the lag deposit are believed to have been from part of a stream where the tumbled, broken bones collected. Many bones, but all broken up and scattered.
Next up was the triceratops excavation site where Markus let us help do some excavation. He was also taking an educational video that the children participated in. Here is a shot of some children (including Faye) helping to roll over the jaw bone of the triceratops that was covered in plaster. Here is a wide angle shot of the triceratops excavation site. You can see that it is in the side of a gully where the rains exposed the skeletal bones. Markus had to dig off the overburden by hand. We helped a bit while we where there. I was excited to find about 2 inches of a Tyrannosaurus Rex tooth. Markus kept that for research. We also to see how Markus worked his fossil finds into metal sculptures of skeletons.
Our final stop was to the Black Hills Institute. They had an amazing skeleton display area with a couple of full sized trex casts. They actually make these casts and sell them world-wide. While there we got to go behind the scenes and see areas where they processed big bones using a special lego mechanism that they developed (notice the little red lego bricks in the plaster). Here is a shot of Mark looking at a bone fossil being prepared. We also got to go back to see the area where they assembled the trex skeleton casts. Here is a shot of that same area from above. There are all sorts of bones in that area like these ribs and a back bone. While there at the Black Hills Institute we also got to see Markus make some more of his educational video. While there I also took some shots of the displays like this one of a fossil ray that was particularly beautiful and this one of a fossil turtle. Those textured parts were just like the ones we found all over at the lag deposit site. Speaking of fossil turtles, here is a shot of one of the boys, Noah, in the shell of a quite large fossil turtle.
We ended out trip with a tour of the city of Black Hills and a delightful lunch in this park with a stream.
All in all quite an amazing trip!