Archive | April, 2017

Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park April 19, 2017

23 Apr

Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park was first established in 1957 to protect and display North America’s most abundant concentration and largest known ichthyosaur fossils. The park also preserves the turn-of-the-20th century mining town of Berlin, as well as the Diana Mine. It is a tad northeast east of where I live Minden, in the middle third of Nevada, and is 172 road miles (or about three hours) away. (Click on the images to see more detail and color)

The elevation ranges from 6,840 feed to a high point of 7,880 feet. The hillsides in the park are covered with sagebrush (the state flower), while piñyon pine (state tree) and Utah juniper dominate the upper elevations. This is looking toward the Berlin town site.

All of us were most excited to get to see the Ichthyosaur fossils at this park. “Ickys” were prehistoric marine reptiles ranging in size from two to over fifty feet in length! The largest specimen (now the state fossil) dubbed Shonisaurus popularis after the Shoshone mountain range where they were discovered in 1928.

This is a life-sized painting on a wall near the fossil shelter. You can see how big they were compared to humans. Their eyeball was really that big in comparison to their bodies.

One of their favorite foods was an ammonite that would have been free swimming in the ocean.

Check out those jaws!

The Fossil Shelter, high up in the mountains, covers many ichthyosaur fossils still embedded in the ground where they were found. It is a fascinating exhibit! We were very fortunate to have talked to Ranger Jeff, who took time to give us a special tour of this facility. The regular tour season doesn’t begin until May 1. It pays to talk to people and let them know how interested you are in what they are saying.

Jeff pointed out where the fossilized remains were and how they “stacked up” in relation to each other. What do I mean by “stacked up?” That’s what the fossils are.

It is not known if the “ickys” beached themselves or just how they got in this position.
But here is an overlay in a pamphlet that shows how the bodies were on top of one another.

Now, with the overlay taken off, you can see the outlines of the fossils. The letters are areas where Jeff pointed to and then we could see a skull, an eye socket, flipper bones, etc. I found this very interesting and a great technique to aid amateurs in figuring out what they were seeing.

Jeff is pointing to some ichthyosaur ribs, vertebrae and flipper bones. I would have thought they were just layers of mud. I really enjoyed being in this fossil shelter and felt privileged that we were the only ones in there that day.

We drove back down the mountain with this view to Berlin to eat lunch and then walk around the Berlin site. It was a pretty day.

The Berlin State Park contains many historic buildings, which are maintained in a state of “arrested decay,” much like the Bodie State Park is in California. These buildings offer a visitor a glimpse of Nevada’s mining past, with varied period artifacts and effects on display.

Old pickup in front of the machine shop.

From inside the machine shop overlooking the town and valley.

An overview picture of Berlin with the large mill on the left side. Berlin’s population never exceeded 250 and many of the people’s buildings no longer exist. We did walk around the very well marked area where cabins/houses had been and learned a lot from those signs.

The Berlin Mine hoist that took out the ore that sits just above an abandoned incline mining shaft that struck eastward into the Shoshone Range. The Berlin Mine was in operation from 1897 to 1910. It was a 60/40 mine, 60% silver and 40% gold. In the 13 years of operation, they extracted $849,000 in precious metals from the mine.

We saw several abandoned mines while hiking around Berlin. There are hundreds of those mines throughout Nevada that are very dangerous due to bad air, rotten timbers in the shafts or ladders, or poisonous varmints that could hide in them.

An Indian paintbrush is the only flower I saw in my trek around the town.

Dalan and Jason at the entrance to the Diana Mine. It was just a few hundred yards from the town of Berlin. Tours are given on weekends from May 1 to September 30.

Dalan, Megan and Jason around a Diana Mine ore car.

Megan is standing at the end of the ore car track where tailing and junk were dumped from the Diana Mine. Our exit road is stretching off in the distance. It crosses the Paradise Range where it joins another highway that takes one back to Hwy. 50, “the Loneliest Road in the US.”

The visitor’s center with a 45 star flag flying over the Nevada state flag. The flag coincided almost exactly with the hey-day of Berlin, commencing in 1896 with Utah’s statehood and ending in 1908 with the addition of Oklahoma to the Union.

It rained and snowed at the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park the day before we arrived, but as you can see from the pictures, we had perfect weather. It was such a gorgeous day (albeit a tad muddy in some areas) that it felt great to be outdoors to breathe perfect air, enjoy the sounds of outdoors, see and experience new sights, and enjoy being together as a family.

Capricious Spring Days in Minden April, 2017

12 Apr

Recently, we had zephyrs that gusted over 70 miles an hour and they were probably much faster in the high elevations. It is not unusual for us to have these damaging gusts when a front is moving into or through northern Nevada. I think these “breezes” are why we sometimes don’t bother to rake leaves and other stuff because they will blow over to the neighbors’ yards in a day or two. That’s a local joke here as we really do rake our stuff. Anyway, the winds lasted all day and into the night and made it a fairly miserable day to be outside. The outside temperature was in the low 50s but the wind made it feel MUCH colder than that.

A friend at the gym told me that she and her husband finished planting their hayseed about noon on that very windy day and she thought they might have quite a bit of it blown away. Why didn’t they wait, you ask? It’s because they were trying to beat the rain that was coming that would help make the seed get into the ground and grow. Such are the fortunes of a rancher/farmer.

The winds did bring rain into the Carson Valley and snow into the very high elevations. It rained off and on all day and again into the night giving us more than an inch of moisture. Again, not a great day to be outside.  It was so bum outside that I elected to do my most dreaded chore of cleaning house. I had put it off too long and it did need to be done. My mother would really be on my case if she knew how I keep house.  (Click on the pictures below to enlarge.  The bird pictures will not because they are from the internet)

Much to my surprise, I awoke the next morning to a very light covering of snow. In fact, it was still lightly snowing when I went out to feed the birds about 6:30. This poor bedraggled, wind-whipped daffodil shows how light the snow was. Daffies always amaze me, as they tend to be the first flowers I see that survive vicious winds, snow and rain.

Speaking of birds, beside the normal quail, gold finches, white-crowned sparrows, ravens and hawks, very hungry yellow-headed blackbirds and tricolored/bicolored blackbirds have returned in force.

I counted 79 (give or take a few) in the tree next to the house. You’ll have to trust me on that number because by the time I got my camera, many had flown away.

Blackbirds are such fun birds to watch…always singing to each other with a “liquid, gurgling konk-la-reee, ending in a trill. …Most common call is a chack” (National Geographic Field Guide to North American Birds) (How do they think up these sounds? I shouldn’t say anything because I have trouble describing birdcalls) Now that I’ve looked up the bird, I find that the tricolored lives primarily in central and coastal California. So I guess what I’m seeing is a red-winged or bicolored blackbird. On the other hand, perhaps these birds lost their compass and like my back yard.


This shows some yellow on his epaulets

The high yesterday was in the mid-forties. The outside temperature this morning was 18 degrees! We had been running in the thirties and sometimes forties. This goes to show you why (even though the planting bug bites us right about now) we shouldn’t plant anything new until at least Mother’s Day. It is not uncommon to have good freezes or even snow in April and sometimes May.

In spite of the cold spells, some things are growing and blossoming. This is the leaning tree in my backyard. The prevailing winds have made it lean but thankfully, it hasn’t toppled yet. As soon as it warms up a bit, bees will be so busy that I will hear their buzz as I walk by the tree. A little peach tree is beginning to bloom just to the left and back of the conical shaped green tree.

Tahoe Tessie and offspring invaded Carson City right around April Fool’s Day and are still swimming in the pond just kitty corner from the post office!

At least someone was kind enough to post a warning about these plesiosaurs.

Although spring tends to be capricious with all kinds of weird things, it is such a lovely season with everything coming back to life and becoming so beautiful.  Sometimes the weather is so erratic that people say, “Don’t like the weather in Nevada?  Just wait 15 minutes.”  I love to see the snow on the mountains, calves romping in the pastures, migratory birds returning and, yes, even the pests with their little ones (i.e., the ground squirrels).  One thing I don’t like is that I got bit twice by a no-seeum type insect.  Rats.  It must have been just warm enough for them to wake up.  Now those are real pests!

It’s a few days since I wrote most of this and our weather is still being very capricious.  We’re expecting rain again tonight and tomorrow and we have the usual gusty winds going about 30 or more mph(according to the internet).  My anemometer broke so all I can tell you is that it is difficult to walk against the wind.  Ah well, it’ll change in a few minutes…