Book Cliffs Field Trip
October 6-8, 2007

by Ron Knoshaug


Judy and I headed to Grand Junction about 4 pm Thursday October 4 so Friday we could explore for good barite nodules. The weather forecast looked somewhat dicey for the weekend with a cold front predicted to move in sometime Saturday.

On Friday morning, we headed out to the Book Cliffs in a light rain and after trying the original spot to dig, we changed plans due to muddy road conditions. We arrived at an alternate digging site and started searching for "good" looking nodules. We found a likely spot and Judy picked a nodule with little exposed nodule showing. I dug into another area but soon realized the concavity of the nodule was up and it indicated the bottom of the nodule; hence the nodule had already been dug out. Looking at Judy’s nodule with concavity down, it was the top and had not been dug. Upon breaking into the nodule, we had a great surprise; the shale inside was not cemented in with calcite but was minimally cemented with barite. To explore the inside of the nodule, we just pulled the shale pieces out with no digging. Many of the pieces had barite crystals attached. The inside of the nodule contained two chambers, each had loose shale with barite. As we proceeded into the larger chamber, the center became hard and was cemented in place by calcite. Most of the barite crystals found were near the outer edge of the chamber. The smaller chamber contained no calcite, only barite. The day was cool, no rain but with high winds. By 5 PM we had enough wind and carried our finds to the vehicle. It took two trips.

Early Saturday morning (about 12:01 am) Don and Gail Beamer and Sharon Perry arrived in Grand Junction. After a brief sleep, they headed to the barite area. At 10:00 am Ron and Judy met Melanie Hood-Lofthouse and husband Mark and Brett Medici( who arrived Friday evening and camped near the dig site). By now it was raining, cold and windy. We decided to head to the dig site. The roads were in fairly good shape. No sooner had we gone to various nodules and began digging, breaking shale, etc. when it started to rain fairly hard. We lasted until noon when the mud was building on our boots, the slopes were like ski hills, and the gullies were beginning to have running water. Sharon started for the car and was worried about slipping into a large gully; Don was using a rake to climb the mud hill; Gail was somehow climbing the muddy and slippery slopes. I arrived at the vehicle about 12:30 covered with mud. We all headed back to town except Brett who was going to wait out the storm. By 3:00 PM, the sun was out, Brett was digging and the rest of us were enjoying Grand Junction.

Sunday morning was cold, still, and clear. The group headed back to the dig site and enjoyed a cool crisp day of barite hunting. By 5:00 pm, the field trip to the Book Cliffs was over with everyone except Judy and Ron heading back to Denver. We headed to Grand Junction for the night. On Monday, we went to Yellow Cat, Utah to hunt for wood, red agate pseudomorphs after barite, and agate. All three were found and we headed back to Denver about 4:00 pm.

One interesting note: the weather station from Grand Junction gave a summary of weather data for Friday and Saturday. On Friday, wind gusts to 45 mph and rain of 0.01 inches; Saturday had only 0.12 inches rain. It certainly seemed wetter in the digging area in the mud, water, and wind.