Yellow Cat and Cisco, Utah Field Trip
October 7 - 9, 2006

by Dale Gann


We left Denver bright and early Saturday morning and headed west. There were predictions for rain in the area we were scheduled to camp. As we headed west the sky's got darker and it started to rain. It rained from Glenwood Springs to Grand Junction. The rained stopped but all I could think of was a trip I made to the same area several years earlier and how bad the trails were after a rain. We exited I-70 and headed towards Yellow Cat Flats. Several miles from the interstate there was a pickup truck stuck in the mud on the side of the trail. We did well until we reached the area that has the black and white petrified wood, that's when the Jeep and camper got stuck. We were about 2-3 miles away from where we had planned to camp. Several others had arrived at about the same time and we all decided this was an OK place to camp. I left the Jeep and camper in the mud and explained what could be collected in the area and where to find it.

The area where we camped is a wide fairly flat valley hence the name Yellow Cat Flats. To the north are cliffs that contain agate, petrified wood, barite nodules both white and black/red pseudomorphs and the hard to find Red Wood. Everyone headed north toward the cliffs. As you approach the cliffs evidence of the logs in the cliffs starts appearing at your feet. Near the top of the cliffs you find the petrified logs that are still encased in the sandstone. The logs are in the same horizon and appear to have been deposited by a high energy event, a flood. The logs range in size from 4 inches to 30 inches in diameter. The area around the top of the cliff is littered with pieces of petrified wood ranging from small chips to chunks weighing 20-30 pounds. Everyone that wanted a big piece got one.

After several hours of collecting everyone headed to the area where we left the vehicles and made camp. Luckily for me several people brought chains and Dan Aber pulled me out of the mud. We had a good group of rock hounds from both North Jeffco and CMS. Shala Lee, Michael Granberg, Jolene Taylor, Michael Arnall, Lee Cassin, Dave Tolen, Jim Davis, Marge Regel and Jack Crandall. After we made camp several of us wandered around the hills near camp and picked some barite pseudomorphs. The evening ended with a nice campfire.

Sunday morning was bright and clear so we headed west to an area that is in the Utah guide books. If you know the area, we were west of the tractor tire. There is a lot of agate, barite nodules and petrified wood in this area. There were several nice agates found there. They were red with nice fortifications. We moved south to one of the classic Red Wood localities. Everyone spread out and the hunt was on. After several hours everyone came back to the area where we parked to show off there finds. Jim Davis had found a very nice piece of Red Wood. The piece was red with a white center. It was shaped like a D lying on its back. This is one of the shapes that Red Wood takes. Red Wood is actually a limb cast with no wood structure visible. The actual wood rots away leaving a void that is eventually filled with silica. Some of the specimens partially collapse giving them the D shape. Both Jim and Jack found very nice fortified agates that were red and white.

We all headed back to camp for dinner. As we were mulling around, Ron and Judy Knoshaug showed up. They had lead a trip to the Book Cliffs north of Grand Junction on Saturday. Sunday they hunted grape agate and ended up at the camp site Sunday night.

When I woke up Monday morning it was cloudy and looked like rain. We broke camp and headed out of Yellow Cat Flat before the roads got bad. We headed to Hanksville for the second leg of the trip. Jim Davis headed over also and we met up with Paul LyVere. After we made camp we headed south to Star Springs Campground. To check out the roads. There had been a 100 year rain event that week and there were washed out roads and flooded houses. An old dam had broken and added to the flooding problems. The roads to the Hanson Creek area were not in very good shape so we headed back to the campground. That evening a hail storm came through the area while we were eating dinner in the camper. When the storm was over there was about 2 inches of hail on the ground. The campground was flooded and the mountains looked like they were covered with snow.

The next day Jim, Paul, Jack and I headed for Caineville which is about 20 miles west of Hanksville. Paul had been told that there was some nice petrified wood in an area about 10 miles north of town. We headed down the trail but didn't get more than a mile or two down the trail when the mud got too bad. We turned and went back to a DOT area and parked. We hiked up a wash and found some petrified wood chips. We started looking for the source and ended up picking up some nice pieces. We never found anything big. The wood was coming from higher up on some cliffs. We climbed to the top and found an area that had lots of smaller pieces. We then tried to follow the same formation as it was exposed on another cliff. We hiked a long way but could never find another outcrop. As we circled back to the vehicles Paul spotted some small red limb casts and called us over. As we were heading that way, Jim said WOW look at that. He had found what looked like a Fairburn agate. It's about 1.5 inches across and has holly leaf fortifications just like a Fairburn. We continued on over to where Paul found the limb cast. They were small pieces and were mixed in the gravel that was eroding out of the clay layer on the side of a hill. I ended up filling a quart size zip lock bag. The limb cast are red on the outside and most are clear in the center. They have nice grain pattern on the outside. As we were trying to find the source it started to rain and we headed back to camp. Jack met us at the Jeep and he had found a very nice agate nodule that was about 10 inches across.

If you ever have a chance to go to Hanksville, you have to stop at Ernie Shirley's rock shop. Ernie is in his eighties now and has been collecting petrified wood and dino bone in the Henry Mountains for many years.

The next day we headed to the Hanson Creek area of the Henry Mountains. Frank Daniels' new book has some nice pictures of wood from the area. When we got to the site we started looking at the material that had eroded out of the cliffs and finally found some petrified wood. At first it was mainly small pieces but we finally found some larger ones. Good colors, lots of yellow, orange and blue. We did find some that was still in the matrix. Again a sandstone like in Yellow Cat. The wood isn't plentiful but it is very pretty.

The next day we headed over to Moab to attend the Moab Points and Pebbles show. It's not a big show but you will see some of the best examples of Yellow Cat Red Wood currently in collections. One of the biggest Red Wood collectors is Jimmie Walker. You can see some of his specimens in Frank Daniels' books along with Dick Dayvault's articles in Matrix and Rock and Mineral magazines. I met Jimmie at last years show, he's a great guy and has lot's of stories to tell. His son Larry is also a Red Wood Collector. Larry has an agate claim on a very productive Red Wood location. I was under the impression that you could not have a claim on petrified wood so I asked Larry how he could claim the Red Wood. He explained that according to the government, limb casts are not petrified wood. I guess they are right, if you can't see any visible grain structure it's just agate. So Larry staked a claim on "Rare and Unusual Agate".

There are always field trips at the Moab show and this year was no exception. We were taken to Dubinky Wash about 20 miles northwest of Moab. We found agate and petrified wood. The wood isn't very colorful but it is very old, from the Chinle formation. We left the others on the field trip and returned to Yellow Cat. I wanted to collect some bigger pieces of the black and white petrified wood. Paul decided to check out a wash he had hunted before. We both returned to our vehicles about an hour later. When Paul got back he wanted to show me what he had found. He had a very nice piece of Red Wood. It had the classic red rind and a white center. He forgot to show me what else he had found. We headed back to the show.

When we were heading back into the show Paul remembered he had something he had not shown me. Paul pulled a perfect little cone. I almost fell over. It's 1.2 to 2 centimeters long with perfect detail on the outside, and it's red. Paul showed it to several people at the show and everyone had the same response. The word got around and people started tracking him down to see it.

All in all it was a great trip even if I got stuck in the mud.