Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Wild Flower Encore - Closed Roads - Fossils

We visited the northern Inyos (south of the White Mountain Range) to look for Pinion nuts in the typically generous Whippoorwill flat area.  There were lots of cones...but they were empty; and the few pine nuts we did find were just empty shells. That’s a bummer.

However, we did find something extraordinary...spring wildflowers in October - Lupine and Phacelia, an incredible number of Lupine, Apricot and Lavender mallow, Indian paint brush, and 3 unknown (to us) types of yellow flowers... 

Lavender Mallow - Marble Canyon, Inyo Mountains
Apricot Mallow - Wacoba/Saline Road


The spring-like day was complete with orange butterflies flittering between the flowers.  There were heavy thundershowers in late summer this year which might account for the second bloom; those rains definitely accounted for taking some of the roads out.

We drove around a “Road Closed Ahead” sign off of Westguard Pass road, then past a more insistent “Road Closed” sign, but only after we temporarily removed an orange cone.  I’ve never seen this road so badly impacted by thunderstorms.

Normally the Wacoba/Saline road would have little dips in the road where water trickles over, barely noticeable.  Not this time.  Thanks to work by the Inyo County Road Department, we were able to get around this one and others like it to reach our destination.  The road from Whippoorwill Flat to Saline Valley snakes through a deep & steep canyon which is washed out on occasion.  We didn’t even try for that one.

The day ended up on a ridge where very old fossil are exposed.  These trace fossils are around ½ a billion years old, mostly worms.  Exquisite ripples from moving water are on display as well.  I believe this from the Ediacaran Period just before the Cambrian explosion, a so-called mini explosion. The Ediacaran Period's status as an official geological period was ratified in 2004 by the International Union of Geological Sciences, making it the first new geological period declared in 120 years.  We accidently found this area a few years ago.  It was not apparent at first they were fossils because geologic possesses can be deceiving; but the accumulation of evidence was convincing. Later we researched the area and confirmed they were indeed very old fossils.

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