The Chief Adventurologist's Blog

Blue Lake

Summer 2012 - I'm off on another adventure.  This time to find a fossil mold.

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Autumnal Equinox - Awesome Agates … and Busy Beavers

Autumnal Equinox - Awesome Agates … and Busy Beavers
September 22, 2012.  Washington has had an unusually sunny summer with very little rain.  That means that, at this time of year, the creeks should be low and it might be possible to find an interesting rock.  So, we packed a picnic, some rockhounding gear, and headed for the woods of Southwest Washington.

Surprise!  The creek was not low.  The water level was higher than expected because beavers have moved into this area.  

Autumnal Equinox - Salmon Creek Dam

The creek has been damed by busy beavers.

We hiked about a mile of this creek and saw several beaver dams as well as numerous downed trees.

Autumnal Equinox - Beaver Damage

The beavers were collecting small branches and even large trees for their construction projects.

The beaver dams and the higher water did not stop me.  I found some interesting petrified wood specimens as well as some agates.

Autumnal Equinox - Carnelian Agate and Beaver Dam

One of the agates I found, with a beaver dam behind me.

Autumnal Equinox - Carnelian Agate Closeup

A closer view of the nice carnelian agate that I found.

Autumnal Equinox - Agate Geode

I also found this agate geode.  Notice the nice agate banding around the exterior.  The center is quartz crystals.

Garnets - September 2012

September 2012.  The water levels are low because we've had a dry summer in the rain forest of Western Washington.  One of my very best friends was willing to hike into Denny Creek near the summit of the Cascade Mountains and look for grossular garnets and quartz crystals.  Dad loaded up the backpack, and we were off.  You can see a picture of the large boulder and the garnets that we found under the Washington State section.  Here, however, are a couple of pictures of us in the Denny Creek rock canyon.

Denny Creek

One of my very best friends and me exploring the canyon.  We're near the summit of the Cascade Mountains and that snow melt water we're standing in is cold!

Denny Creek - Zoe & Grace

Okay, the waterfalls and boulders are bigger than you might think.  We're on a rock ledge half way up if you look close.

Washington's Blue Lake Rhino

June 2012.  It’s a warm summer day and, after a year of planning, we’re off with friends to find the site of the Blue Lake Rhino.  We’re in Grant County, in Central Washington … just south of the world famous Dry Falls (made famous during the end of the last Ice Age).  It’s sunny, hot, and dry.

Blue Lake

My pals, Reino and Carol, let me drive their boat on our trip to find the Blue Lake Rhino.

Millions of years ago, however, during late Miocene and early Pliocene (between 17 and 6 million years ago), enormous quantities of basaltic magma flooded the surface of eastern Washington (these ‘Columbia River Basalts’ also covered portions of Oregon and Idaho).  Over a period of about ten to fifteen million years, these gigantic lava flows repeatedly poured forth.  Eventually, an area exceeding 60,000 square miles (which is an area larger than the entire State of Georgia … it was big!) of the Pacific Northwest was buried in lava, some areas over a mile thick.  Buried in one of these lava flows – in the middle of Washington – was a rhinoceros.  No kidding.

Blue Rhino Cave

The Blue Lake Rhino Cave is about 2/3 of the way up the cliff wall from the lake - just below the dark band of basalt.

The fifteen to fourteen million year old fossil mold - commonly know as the "Blue Lake Rhino" – was discovered in 1935 by rockhounds searching for petrified wood.  The unusual fossil mold of a small rhinoceros is located high up on a basalt cliff in the Columbia Basin Plateau lava field above Blue Lake.  The fossil mold, which forms a small cavity, is preserved in pillow basalt overlying a thin sand bed.  A few bones also were found.  Scientists believe that, at the time of one of the lava floods, the rhino likely was dead and laying in a small pond.  Lava then flowed into the water and hardened, forming a mold around the rhino’s body.  Scientists from UC Berkeley made a mold of the rhino (and made off with most of the few bone fossils which existed at the site and which now are stored in California).  A mold of the rhino can be seen at the Burke Museum in Seattle (at the University of Washington).

Intrepid adventurers still can see the fossil mold of an upside down rhino in the basalt cave.  And, if you are my size, you can climb inside.  Just one problem … it’s located on a cliff face about 300 feet above the east end of Blue Lake, approximately 25 miles north of Soap Lake, Washington near Sun Village Resort.  The basalt cliff wall is marked.  Access is dangerous.  The climb is steep, on unstable talus, and there is no safety net.  Approximately 300 feet above the basalt boulders below, you can stand on a cliff ledge – about three to four feet wide – and look inside the basalt cavity.  Take a flashlight and nerves of steel.  Seriously, unless you are experienced, this is a dangerous climb that should be avoided.

Blue Lake Rhin - Rock Layers

We're at the Blue Lake Rhino Cave.  Notice the difference in rock layers.

Blue Lake Rhino - Zoe & Reino looking inside cave

That's me and my pal Reino at the Blue Lake Rhino Cave.

Scientists are not completely confident as to the exact specimen, but many believe the Blue Lake Rhino to be a Diceratherium – the double-horned rhinoceros ancestor first named by Othniel C. Marsh, the famous U.S. paleontologist who persuaded his wealthy uncle to fund a museum at Yale.  Marsh named several dinosaurs.

Blue Lake Rhino Inside the Blue Rhino Cast

Inside the Blue Lake Rhino Cave.

We made it safely up to the cave and back and, while we were climbing the cliff, my pal Carol fiercely protected my lunch – especially my Cheetos – from a determined group of horses.  Thank you Carol.  If you’re lacking someone to guard your lunch or just don’t think you want to risk the cliff, you can see a small model (and a few small bone fragments) of the Blue Lake Rhino at the Visitor Center at the Dry Falls Heritage Area.

Blue Lake Rhino Cast at Dry Falls

Model of the Blue Lake Rhino on Display at the Dry Falls Heritage Area.

Pyrite Psuedomorph - June 2012

June 2012.  I’m in Northwest Montana.  The rocks here are very old – some are over a billion years old.  There is a beautiful site where you can find limonite cubes.  These are pyrite pseudomorphs.  Originally, a cubic pyrite specimen formed.  Over time, however, the pyrite cube was replaced with a secondary mineral, limonite, which took the form of the pyrite cube.  I collected a nice specimen with a little help from mom and dad.    

MT Pyrite Psuedomorph in Matrix

Pyrite Pseudomorph in Belt Formation rock

MT Pyrite Psuedomorph

At last, a nice specimen is liberated

Zoe building GGR

That's me - on winter break in December 2011 - building version 2.0 of Gator Girl Rocks.

Welcome to Version 2.0 of Gator Girl Rocks.  After several years of providing the Best Ever Rockhounding Resource for Children & their Families, I've completely re-built, re-designed, and improved Gator Girl Rocks.  I've switched from a PC to a MacBook (my whole family has decided that life is too short to spend such a huge amount of time trying to keep PC's running properly) and, as a result, redesigned Gator Girl Rocks with website software designed for Macs.  Whoo Hoo!

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