First trip into the Fossil Holy Land, Lee Creek Mine!
Saturday March 28, 2009.
The Day had finally arrived. I got up (as if I ever really fell asleep that night) and was dressed and ready to go and throwing my gear into the car in minutes. I met Govinn in the parking lot and after a stop for gas, beef jerky and caffeinated beverages we were on our way. However the stop kind of put us off schedule. The drive would usually take 45 minutes but using a little more gas than usual we got there and signed in on time. Finally, the first day into the infamous Lee Creek Mine! Got my gear out and wandered around to find the other BRF members. Found them just getting their gear out as well. We made our way to the assembly area and plans were made to bum rush the bus as soon as the door opened to get seats near the front. Ok that really didn’t happen, but between listening to people talk about high expectations, and safety briefs and what to look for it was just all so exciting to take in.
Finally they started issuing out goggles and hard hats and we started climbing onto the bus. We were on our way! After quite the exciting drive to the ramp entrance we were hurried off the bus and waited for the truck carrying our gear. Once that arrived and we armed ourselves with whatever tools of the trade we brought with us we started making our way towards the ramp. John (Govinn), Brad (Brachiomyback) and myself followed a guide who was giving us instructions on what to look for and we quickly outpaced the rest of the group. It was hard listening to everything the guide was saying, even though it was great information, I kept looking off down at the mine. It was huge, and all I could think about was every different fossil and what I would find and climbing around, over and up the huge piles of material just waiting to offer up there harvest of shark teeth to my collection. We made it too the top of the ramp and started our way down, trying not to fall, and as soon as we made it to the bottom if was a mad stampede of collectors trying to find their first collecting spots!
I wandered around over piles and searched for teeth. I started in some pungo and what looked like a little Yorktown mixed in but seeing as I was still near the ramp I figured people had gone over the area pretty well because I had not found anything. Nothing at all. So after a while and moving across a few small hills later did I come across the side of a pile of pungo that nobody had touched. The teeth started coming and pretty much could be found all over the place. I had my heart set on big mako’s, big hemi’s and chub’s and or megs. The hemi’s came first, mostly beat up but a couple good ones. It wasn’t for awhile until I found my first mako. Then after I made my way to the top of the mound I started moving around a little material and right on top as I pushed some material something large broke the surface. Something large with serrations! My heart stopped for a second as I contemplated what it was and slowly started moving the dirt and mud away from the sides. My heart sank a little when I found it was only 2/3 of a dark colored chub. That was pretty much the story of the day as I found two more decent size chubs but when I was right on top of them I would see right away that they were missing the whole root, or a third of the blade and root.
After picking that hillside clean I moved to the top of the next mound and found where some people had found and left a bunch of whale bones and huge verts. There were no footprints around so I figured they were there for quite awhile. Near those huge whale bones I found three vertebrates of probably a porpoise or a dolphin. These I picked up and stowed away in my backpack and kept moving. I stopped every so often to pick up the occasional tooth. After awhile I made my way back over to where Govinn was looking around and hit an area full of little makos. And most of them were whole! I love finding whole teeth. Finding broken ones and shamers just wears on you sometimes. After awhile and not seeing anything with some size to it I started moving to a new spot as T$ walked by me. Upon exchanging questions on any big finds he mentioned his finding of all the whale teeth. What a day he was having. He continued on and I turned my head back to the ground hoping for that small glint of a meg sticking out from the material.
But even though I found a lot of teeth, and some really nice teeth, the whole big one didn’t come. So finally when the fog horn blast sounded we started moving our way back to the ramp. At one point as john was following me, and it was time to descend a steep pile my feet slipped and I fell on my but and slid down to the bottom of the hill. That’s one way to get down. After stating how I meant to do that, (ok I lied) I continued on up to the ramp as the skies began to open up. The rain felt so good after all that work. John who was following me got the worst of it as he decided to carry out some large whale bones. I laughed at the time but now that I think about it I wish I did the same thing. Next time I go in I am definitely picking up some of those huge verts.
Upon getting back to the parking lot we packed up and took off pretty quick to go get what I had been craving all day: an ice cold coke. Shortly after that we were at the museum talking to the staff, picking up some books and then of course picking through the spoil piles. Spent the rest of the day there and that night left to head back to Greenville.
That was an incredible day. Thanks to Ditchweezil and Black River Fossils for giving me the opportunity to go into the mine. It was great meeting everyone and hopefully I will get the chance to hunt with you guys again. And a big thanks to PCS for letting everyone in on weekends to hunt. I know its greatly appreciated by all and I am definitely no different.
And a big thanks to ditchweezil for not deleting my account when I was so late to post my trip report!
Until next time, good hunting!