Saturday, August 13, 2011

Billions Undiscovered

Ever since our brief visit to the Keystone Gallery in Keystone, KS (June 29, 2011), my curiosity about fossil hunting is growing. So, the opportunity to visit nearby Fossil Butte National Monument near Kemmerer, WY, was not be missed.

From our campground in Lyman, we took highway 412, passing through the village (actually a "census-designated place") of Carter. It seems that any town of any size in Wyoming can be found on a state map--no town is too small for this sparsely populated state.

The abandoned buildings gave testimony to better times in days gone by.
As we slowed to look for signs of the eight people identified as recently as 2007 as still living in Carter, we noticed only one home with yard furniture and other signs of life.

Sadly, the majority of the buildings were either boarded up or on the verge of collapse.

Continuing our travels north to highway 189, we reached Kemmerer. From here, were drove west on US 30 to Fossil Butte.

The Park's information brochure asks visitors to imagine a time when this semi-arid landscape was a lake, 50 miles long and 20 miles wide, in a sub-tropical climate.

The brochure describes the Green River Formation of Fossil Lake (layers of tan rock near the top of the Butte) and the Wasatch Formation ((the red, pink and purple formations) which contain millions of fossils, from plants and fish to crocodiles, turtles, lizards, and a rhino-sized mammal called Coryphodon.

Fossil hunting is permitted in the Park only by special permit research projects, but it is permitted on private lands outside the Park. At these sites, collectors are permitted to keep all the comon specimens they find. Rare finds on state lands are given to the Wyoming Geological Survey for study.

Paleontolo-gists and private collectors have unearthed millions of specimens since the mid-1800s. But many billions more lie buried in the butte and surrounding ridges.

During the drive into Kemmerer for lunch, I couldn't help but think about those numbers--"many billions" more fossils....

As if I needed more encourage-ment to join a fossil hunt, this mural on the side of the Ace Hardware store in Kemmerer shows fossil hunters and their collection of fossils. The person on the right had one leg and walked up and down the quarry pushing a wheelbarrow.

One of the challenges when visiting out of the way places like Lyman and Kemmerer, WY, is finding any online reliable restaurant infor-mation. You might find a listing of local restaurants, you might find an occasional brief comment from a diner, but an online menu—forget it. A web search produced the Mandarin Garden, Scroungy-moose Pizza, Busy Bee (we couldn’t find it), Bootleggers (bar and steakhouse, left), Taco Time (chain), Arctic Circle (chain), and the Westerner CafĂ©.

The only review was for the Westerner Cafe where on Katelynn S. said:
“Serves American and Mexican food. Their green sauce is AMAZING (and I'm picky about my green sauce!). It's run by a Hispanic family, and the wife makes all their sauces and stuff fresh. It's really good.”

So following our visit to Fossil Butte, we went for a lunch of Mexican food. The menu was all over the map. American offerings included a Philly with Swiss (shades of John Kerry), a French Dip, a pannini, and multiple burger variations. The list of Mexican meals included fajitas, carne asada, chile relleno, burritos, quesa-dillas, and something called Molcajete which came served in a lava bowl. Wanting to keep things simple, we both ordered enchiladas—the red with shredded beef for me and the green with shredded chicken for Chuck.

First, in neither of our cases was the meat shredded. “Coarsely chopped” would be a better descriptor. And the red chile on my enchiladas (left) more resembled Campbell’s undiluted Cream of Tomato soup with a hint of red chile mixed in. The rice—converted—was alright, and the small scoop of guacamole that came on both of our plates was first rate.

Katelynn S. was right. The green chile was—if not AMAZING—was very good with a bright citrus flavor that likely came from a hefty dose of tomatillos. It was not overly spicy and was bright and refreshing.

No rating here....

Well, if I must, I’ll give the Westerner 3.0 Addies based on the guacamole and green chile.

On our walk back to our truck, we passed the Victory theater with its Old West appearance.

And on a corner by the town square (actually a triangle), we came upon the store whose history is described here:

"The year was 1902 and a 27-year-old man arrived by train in Kemmerer to start a new business. A scattered mining community, Kemmerer had about one thousand residents, a company store that operated on credit and 21 saloons where a good deal of spare cash was spent.

"Two revolutionary ideas--cash only and do unto others as you would have them do unto you--were the basis for James Cash Penney's new business venture. (The middle name is a family name, not chosen to express his retail philosophy). He named the store the Golden Rule.

"When the sun rose over Kemmerer, Wyoming, April 14, 1902, it gilded a sign reading 'GOLDEN RULE STORE'" ( jcpenney).

On our way back to Lyman, we passed a mural painted on concrete in Kemmerer's neighboring town of Diamondville. The two photos shown here represent about one-third of the entire mural.

This mural by Terrel Davis depicts various aspects of early coal mining in the local area. It stretches for nearly a block along Diamondville's main thoroughfare.

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