Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself......
Work brought me to Kentucky last week, just south of Cincinnati / across the Ohio River. Because of airfare costs / logistics I ended up making the eight hour journey north via vehicle. The only upside was I got to drive through some beautiful states / areas (Interstate 40 west through the North Carolina mountains range, Tennessee and then up north on Interstate 75).
I checked out some potential fossil locations and decided to try a popular road cut collecting area that exposes the Kope (Eden) Formation along Orphanage Road in Kenton County. While getting directions to the site on http://www.mapquest.com/, I noticed (when switched to the aerial view) an area further northeast that looked similar to a gravel pit. This area sparked my curiosity.
I usually try to get a “feel” for an area before I visited it via the “Bird’s Eye View” at http://maps.live.com/. When I did this, the “gravel pit” area was depicted as the competed commercial development for the Wal-Mart located in Fort Wright, Kentucky. Fortunately I was able to switch over to a “Bird’s Eye” view to get a better perspective of this area.
The “Bird’s Eye” aerial views are usually available for urban areas (with some coverage in Europe). Diese Web-Seite arbeitet für unsere fossilen Jäger in Osnabrück Deutschland. (This web page works for our fossil hunters in Osnabrück Germany). Type Osnabruck, Germany, zoom in and switch to “Bird’s Eye” view for a tour of their city (my great-great-great grandfather emigrated from Oldenburg, just north of Osnabrück).
I noticed a fresh “road cut” exposure just behind the Wal-Mart. Additional “googling” showed trilobites have been found in this Ordovician formation. Considering it was a newer exposure and not along a major roadway / traffic, I decided to focus on the Wal-Mart formation and find my first trilobite.
The closer I was to completing my journey, the more interstate road cuts I saw. I kept wondering what kind of fossils I kept on passing. This was causing my fossil hunting fever to reach a critical level. I finally arrived early evening with a couple of hours of daylight left. My first impression was that this was a big exposure and not being a geologist I wasn’t sure where to focus my efforts on. Some loose sections of the exposure could be chipped into thin sheets like shale / siltstone. I did find some crinoid stems in a few of these. Other sections were so hard that it was apparent I didn’t have the right equipment. One strong “whack” with my Home Depot mattock snapped the pointed end right off (cheap cast iron……any recommendations on a good rock hammer would be appreciated).
I noticed another fossil / rock hound further down the exposure and decided to make my presence known. “Phil” was a local who recently moved from Illinois (my former homestead) and it was also his first time at the site. We chatted for a while and then went back to what we both came for.
It was getting dark and I decided to check out another recommended exposure behind a shopping center that was close to the Interstate 75 on-ramp going back to my hotel. Phil’s directions were perfect and in five minutes I was there. This formation was at a higher elevation exposure and was similar to the one I collected in Nashville, expect this one had more Rafinesquina brachiopods and in much better condition. Some of these were as thin as a dime and complete specimens which were compliments of months of weathering in the fall / winter season. I also found a couple Platystrophia brachiopods and a cephalopod partial.
After completing my job the following day I decided to check out the formations in the higher elevations behind Wal-Mart. I knew that access could obtained from a dead end roadway via review of the “Bird’s Eye View”. These areas had “pockets” of weathered / exposed crinoids. It brought back memories as a child when I used to pick through the rocks along gravel roadways to find crinoids, which I called Indian Beads back then. These weren’t the fat short ones I was used to, but rather very small / delicate thin specimens. I almost wished I brought some tweezers to pick them up.
I made my way east and continued till I was finally behind Wal-Mart with similar pockets found here and there. I then noticed someone yelling at me way down below asking me, what I thought was, if I was finding anything. I screamed back, “Yes, fossils”. I couldn’t quite make out what he said and decided just to repeat myself. The guy then started to walk away. Ten minutes later, Phil snuck up behind me and damn near gave me a heart attack. I was in a peaceful zone just picking crinoids when I heard in a labored voice (he sped hiked up the hill) inquire, “What did you find?” (Earlier I saw a monster deer double imprint in the mud that almost look like a bear foot print, because it was weathered). At first if gave me the willies, but I did have my cell and my mattock. I didn’t expect to be surprised by any “company” up on the secluded hillside.
After getting my share of crinoids we both decided to hunt the lowest formations. I didn’t find any trilobites; however, did find a couple of trilobite exoskeleton molts in some crinoid matrixes, a couple cephalopods and some other interesting crinoid matrix plates. At least I got to squeeze in some fossil hunting and share part of it along with another certifiable fossil hunter. Phil found an awesome crinoid matrix that was the size of a brick. It was so dense with crinoids the only way I could describe it was like a bundled up wad of pipe cleaners. I was too amazed by it and forgot to take a picture of it. He was also kind enough to give me a couple of horn coral fossils that he collected from another local site that logistically I couldn’t squeeze in before my journey home.
I just love this hobby…..