The time before we head out west has suddenly grown short, and I couldn't be happier about that. On the other hand, the list of things to do suddenly got a lot longer. Let me explain.
I spoke with Lisa today - Lisa is our contact with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) who is leading the efforts to move our excavation permits along through the process. She told me that they've gotten a lot of rain this spring. Dr. Rick Schmidt, the BBDP's Chief Meteorological Officer, tells me that parts of the county have received over 5" in May alone. Just last night they had torrential downpours, and some southern parts of the Basin received 3" of rain - that's as much as they get in a bad year! Those rains may be welcomed by the farmers in the region, but they don't do any favors for our roads. The biggest budgeted expense for our campaign was for repairs to the only road that approaches our quarry. After re-inspecting that road this morning, though, Lisa tells me the road is in far worse shape. It's now nearly all washed out, and repairing just became a much more complicated (and expensive) endeavor. We'll now have to bring in road fill, construct culverts, and that's not even the worst part. The erosion has now exposed another oil pipeline, so all of this work will have to be done VERY carefully, and under the supervision of officials after submitting a detailed plan.
This is how much of the road looked BEFORE the rains came!
At this point we're just going to ask our road repair guy to assess and report on the situation. The general plan - at least for now - is to just sit and wait. We'll probably try to go without the road repairs, and continually reassess the situation throughout the season. If we're lucky enough to get a lot of fossil material that requires large jackets, well . . . then we'll just figure out a way to repair the roads no matter what. Maybe all of the material we'll find can be carried up to the trucks on our backs, or by ATV at the end of the season. Maybe. There's no point in repairing the road before we see what we have. Besides - we certainly don't want to repair it too early only to have it washed out again. And that's a real possibility. The long-term forecast is calling for above normal precipitation this summer - a consequence of a strong El Nino.
Yep - that's an oil pipeline exposed at the edge of our "road", several hundred feet above the floor of the cliff it is hanging over, BEFORE the roads were washed out.
One of the main points I make to our new crew members on their first-night in camp is that field work is all about being adaptable and flexible, because conditions and situations force you to be constantly planning, and re-planning. Apparently that is even the case in the off-season. That's part of what makes it so exciting, though!
P.S. Just in case anyone is interested, we still have a few spots available if anyone would like to join us. Just send us a message if so. It's the adventure of a lifetime!