Saturday, April 27, 2013

Desert Destination: Tule Hardpan and Fossil Mountain

After our recent rock climbing adventure on the Ibex Crags, we took out the bikes and headed out on the Tule Hardpan, also known as the Ibex Hardpan. If you've never ridden a bike on a hardpan (playa), it is the bomb. You can go anywhere you want, it's perfectly flat, and it just feels great. The last time we biked on this hardpan, Desert Boy was just a toddler and we had an alien experience (click the link to see more!).

Desert Girl gave the playa a try on her little bike with training wheels, but soon decided she'd rather ride with mom. I guess I should add that when I say perfectly flat, I don't mean perfectly smooth. The playa has plenty of mud cracks, and it's best not to have super inflated tires or you will have a bumpy ride.

 So while my husband took a rest, the rest of us rode around the "island", a projection rising from the middle of the playa. Someone had planted three flag poles on the top, which seemed rather out of place to me. I'm not sure if it's some group or remnants from when they filmed part of the movie John Carter out here (which I have yet to see). As I noted in another post, playas have all sorts of uses.

 Someone had dug out a low spot on the playa, which gathered water for animal use. Desert Girl just barely resisted getting wet.

 After our little bike ride (which I could have continued much, much longer--did I mention how much I like riding on playas?), we packed up the bikes and headed around the south end of Ibex Crags and the Barn Hills to Blind Valley. Our destination?

The mighty Fossil Mountain, in the south Confusion Range. Nearly the entire mountain is made of fossils! Here's a link to a very brief geology of the mountain. Many of the fossils are from the Lower Ordovician Pogonip Group and include brachiopods, cephalopods, trilobites, and echinoderms. Dr. Lehi Hintze (who wrote the marvelous Geology of Millard County) and his coworkers used the area to establish fossil zones for rocks of this age that are a reference to paleontologists all over the world. He noted that because this area was at the edge of a sea, the wave action caused many of the fossils to be in pieces.

 We drove to the end of a four-wheel drive road and then headed up the wash towards the mountain. It didn't take us long to start spotting fossils.

 Here's a cephalopod.

 I'm not sure what this is, but it looked pretty. I wish I knew more about paleontology, because I mainly just look for pretty things but don't understand much about what they mean. Nevertheless, I appreciate that very different things used to live here, and that the landscape has changed so much over the millennia (although I'm looking for a word that means even bigger time changes--geologic time is so hard for my mind to grasp!).

We happily spent about an hour looking around.

Someday we'll have to hike all the way up the mountain. Summitpost says that it takes about two hours;  I think it would take me longer because I'd be stopping frequently to look for fossils!


The Incredible Woody said...

What a fun day!

One of the things I wished for when we visited Racetrack Playa was my bicycle! For my birthday, we purchased a little enclosed trailer to haul all of our toys and camping supplies. Now wherever we happen to be, we have the fun stuff!!

John Mosley said...

Maybe someday I can give you a tour of geologic time.

Tara said...

Neat fossils! Now I'm going to start looking for a playa for bike riding around here.

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