Bushwhacking near the Continental Divide Trail. Broken land: stone, mud, sand, concretions. Overall colors are dun, but sometimes, bright against the yellow, a deep red or black. Weathered, skeletal, not a land friendly to humans. No water but the distant Puerco River. Sagebrush and juniper—the piñon is dead from drought.
The particular crisp softness of walking on frost-heaved Cretaceous dirt.
A doe and her grown fawn floated away from us, bouncing light as…but nothing bounces light as a deer.
Best discovery: the source of that organic-metallic, pungent odor we call “snake smell.”
It has an oiliness, and always seems to occur near strata of barely-altered Cretaceous swamp not compressed enough to be coal. Yet I’ve heard many a desert rat say, “That’s rattler smell.” It has always made me aware of my ankles.
But it’s a plant. Thick, small, dark green leaves in pairs on a red stem. I couldn’t find it in Weeds of the West, but it looks like a vetch.
In the Cretaceous mud we found a shattered dinosaur thigh by following fragments of petrified bone scattered down an arroyo.
But—I think I’ve explained this before—if you find a tiny piece, how can you tell whether it’s a dissolving dinosaur?
Lick it. If it’s bone, rather than some other stone like agate or silicified wood, the porous vesicles left by once-living cells and capillaries will wick up the moisture of your tongue, and it will stick.