My Friend the Weed
Its Fall, and I've been anticipating the Lee Creek fossil hunt since I stepped out of the pit last season. There was a sub tropical storm the day before the big hunt that really got me worried. Too much rain in Aurora is bad because if it washes out the ramp, collecting is cancelled. T$, da f0ssZ, and myself made the trek without knowing for sure whether we would be allowed access to the pit, but the prospect of collecting after that much rainfall was too good to pass up. Despite several days of pounding rains, the ramp held and we were allowed to collect to the complete delight of all present.
Word spread quickly that the mine workers had been hitting the collecting area with a vengence prior to the opening of the public fossil collecting season. But with all the rain, no one seemed to care. The pit was surely refreshed after such a drenching. As we emptied the bus, the heat and humidity was oppressive even first thing in the morning. By the time I reached the bottom of the ramp, I was already soaked with sweat. I noticed that a vast majority of the collectors hurried to the newer collecting area. I have never been a follower so I decided to try my luck in the weeds and fire ant infested hills that comprised the first three rows of the collecting area.
It didn't take long for me to find my first tooth, from a large modern tiger shark, and reassurance that I had made the right choice. For some time, I was picking up teeth every step as I got closer and closer to the hill where I had found a megalodon last season. There were a few more weeds and the Yorktown peaks were a little more weathered than I remembered, but the formation was all over both the front and the back of the hill. As I crossed over the top of a small mound of the formation, I kicked over the best sperm whale tooth I have ever found. It surely would have made a great ground photo. I picked it up, and then spied a beastly large mako barely holding onto the layer. A bit further down the hill, I came to a gully where water poured between to high ridges of Yorktown formation. There at the bottom was my trip maker - a megalodon barely exposed. I took a photo, chanted the "please be whole" mantra and unearthed a gorgeous megalodon tooth. I gently wiped away the remaining dirt to reveal a sharply serrated blade, complete all the way to the tip. I could tell that the bourlette was even intact. My trip to Lee Creek was a complete success before 9 am.
My pace slowed somewhat - a side effect of gravy mode. And the finds intensified because I looked more carefully. A handful of makos, modern tigers, bull, and dusky shark teeth later I crossed over into some Pungo where I shared a mound with RivrDigr and ScubaPaul. I was in the middle of the mound when I eyed a flawless little chubutensis. I love knowing that a tooth is perfect before I even pick it up. Several cow shark teeth also made their way into my pack before I made my way into an especially dense patch of weeds where I pulled out a prize Parotodus benedeni specimen.
It was difficult to contain my excitement. When I ran into people I knew in the pit, I pulled out the benedeni because I was so proud of it. But still I looked down for the next ultimate prize. As the day wore on and my water supply dwindled, the effects of the heat began to take their toll. It was a little harder to bend down to pick up teeth, and the hills seemed a lot steeper. As I ascended the ramp to the finish line, each step was more difficult than the previous. Friends greeted me at the top - "So how'd you do?" I replied "Awesome... Bus... Pat... follow..."
Utterly exhausted, I guzzled some cold water as others showed their finds to Pat. When it was my turn, I emptied my pockets as I struggled to maintain verticality. She snapped a few photos of my finds as I smiled and continued to sweat.
Now I'm rested and full of mexican food. I can think clearly, and the prevailing thought I have is thanks. Thanks to PCS for allowing me and others to enter their property and collect fossils. Thanks to the Friends of the Museum and all they do to support the museum and collecting. Thanks to those at the head of the Friends who put in so much time to steer the group, schedule collecting, and contact hobbyists like myself so we can participate in what I consider to the the greatest of all hobbies. And last, but certainly not least, thanks to the guides - the good guys (and girls!) in white hats who volunteer their time to attend training and accompany us week after week, even at the end of the season when collecting starts to look a lot like work. Without all of these people, none of this would be possible and I have them to thank for the greatest single day of collecting I have yet had in the Lee Creek mine.