Monday, July 31, 2006

July 31, 2006

The best laid plans….gang aft aglay, as Robbie Burns wisely noted. I’m having trouble getting my pictures up as “Dial-up Man.” Well, I will try to evolve today and get into town for a high-speed connection. I think you’ll like the results – a good cross-section (no geological pun intended) of our activities so far.

Another issue that has arisen out here over the past 24 hours that has been a little distracting is the threat of wildfire. While fire danger is always high out here in the summers, with activity restrictions and the like, yesterday was a little more problematic than most days. The west is in the seventh year of drought and the snow melt waters that feed the rivers are low. Rainfall levels are also abnormally low. The mountain pine forests are like tinder, ripe for dry lighting strikes and go up like a torch (lots of resin in the wood and the undergrowth and litter is dry).

Remember those hot days of last week? The weather has broken and a front came through yesterday giving us cool temperatures and highs in the 80’s at the dinosaur quarries. However, that front was associated with very high winds lasting almost 24 hours. A small, 2 acre fire near Livingston (the next valley over) was whipped up to 2000 acres over the course of the day and the billowing plume of smoke blanketed the sky here last night. It was truly a sight to see and we were all prepared for a quick evacuation should the fire jump the ridge. Today things seem a little quieter, but I doubt it’s under control. I’ll keep my eye on the situation – just in time for our new group of Field School recruits who arrive today.

Last weeks folks, Buck, Patty, Joe, Matt, Carol, Barb and A.J. have departed after an adventurous, but I believe extremely satisfying week. At least everyone always tells me how wonderful, though hot and tiring, their visit has been. I was very pleased with the rapport and camaraderie of the group – seven folks thrown together with only the common interest in a high country dinosaur adventure – yet finding new friends and common experiences along the way.

Just to sum up the wildlife tally (if I can get the pictures up you’ll see how the fossil collecting works) has expanded somewhat. The turkeys are back in camp – seemingly oblivious to any threat of an early Thanksgiving – so all have had a chance to see them. We’ve run into a couple of rattlesnakes – with no tragic results (they fear us more than we them as they should), at least one more yellow-jacket (Sara is sad to say), have seen several coyotes up close, squirrels, chipmunks, a wide variety of birds – juncos, more hummingbirds and red-tailed hawks, magpies, etc., and some sort of big furry fellow by the side of the road as we returned from our weeks finale at the Bearcreek pig races. I don’t think he was a bear cub, and have my money on a marmot, porcupine or badger, but as it was late at night, the races take place at a saloon, and our designated driver neglected to slow down, I couldn’t say for certain.

The races are a Montana tradition. Started over 20 years ago as a promotional event to bring custom to Bearcreek’s only business (at that time), tourist (and the occasional local) travel from far and wide to wager on the bacon. The saloon is known to see a geology student or two each summer as well! The races are more like a lottery than paramutuel betting, but they almost died an early death as the Montana Horse Racing Association raised some initial objections, even though all profits support college scholarships for local kids. With grassroots political action brought to bear on the problem a special bill was passed in the state legislature to allow pig racing at Bearcreek Downs and owner and impressario Pits DeArmond has never looked back. They serve a great buffalo steak too, by the way. For our group’s efforts at supporting local color, Sam was rewarded with a $100 win. I’m sure he’ll report it on his taxes if he makes enough to file (unlikely as a paleo wannabe).

That’s all for now. Back to work on those picture files. Wish me luck!


Joe Gray said...

I'm back in Cincy and it is even hotter here than it was at Mother's Day with the humidity. No steak a Jake's, closed on Sunday. Loved every minute of the Dinosaur Field School. I'll send some pictures if you like.


Martin English said...

The museum just sent out the monthly e-newsletter with the link to your blog. Great idea, you should now be getting more comments.
Re: the pig races, is "Jurassic Pork" running this year?
Hope you can get the pictures up soon.


Anonymous said...

Hi all the heat is killing the butterflies up here in Alberta!

Your pal Steve

Glenn said...

Glad to have you out Joe! See you back in town at projects end. Mart6in - Mac is doing great! "Jurassic Pork" is my sentimental favorite, but "Make-in' Bacon" always steals the show. Steve - If there are no butterflies in AB, they at least have some great dinos! See you in a few. G-