Friday, December 30, 2016

RonnieAdventure #0236 - Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, Clark County, Nevada

On December 19, 2014 , the 22,650 acre Tule Springs Fossil Beds, located in the north part of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Area, became a National Monument under the jurisdiction of the U.S. National Park Service. The Monument was formed to "protect and interpret the nationally important paleontological, scientific, educational and recreational resources in the park" and it is "the first area of the National Park Service specifically dedicated to the preservation, public education and scientific study of Ice Age fossils...[and] fills an important gap in the fossil record represented by the National Parks."

The Park is scientifically significant because it contains the longest continuous section of Pleistocene strata in Southwest United States and the largest assemblage of Ice Age fossils from 7,000 to 200,000 years ago. Looking at the barren landscape today, it is hard to imagine that this area was once a wetland with lush vegetation.

In 1962, the National Geographic Society conducted a four-month intensive study of the Tule Springs Fossil Beds and cataloged a large number of fossils from the area. The significance of the area was re-confirmed with excavation work performed by various universities in later years. 

Because there was no appropriate on-site storage space for fossils excavated from the area, the San Bernardino County Museum in California was selected as the official repository for the site and now holds thousands of fossils that have been excavated over the years.  

When a friend called and invited me on a ranger-led trip around parts of the Park, how could I resist.

The entrance to the basin is through a small slot that has been cut through the strata. The slot is about five tall and two feet wide. (For those that do not like to go through tight spaces, you can always just climb over the top of the mound.)

The Pleistocene strata mounds found within the Park are the remains of what has not eroded away. 

We were told that when pioneers first came to the Las Vegas area, it was easy to find bones, teeth, and tusks just laying on the ground throughout the area, but over the years all of the exposed items were collected by non-professional paleontologists. There are now very few exposed items, but the Ranger explained that after a rain storm, sometimes parts of bones, teeth, and tusks can be seen protruding from the strata.

In one area we walked through, the ground  was completely covered with Cicada mud tubes.

We also walked by a large labyrinth of unknown origin.

We were asked not to photograph any fossils that we saw, but while no one was looking I did take a picture of a large dinosaur egg.

The Tule Springs Fossil Beds also contain a number of endangered plant species, including the Bear Poppy (Arctomecon californica) and other desert plants.

Bear Poppy (Photographer Unknown)
Desert Broom

Future plans for the area include a visitor center and improved pathways at various locations in the park. Once the visitor center has been completed, the fossils currently stored at the San Bernardino County Museum repository will be returned to the site. 
Fossils that have been found during the various excavations include Columbian Mammoths, Camelops, American Lions, massive sloths, Dire Wolfs, Saber Tooth Cats, Bison, Ice Age Horses, and many others. No evidence of human activity has ever been found at the site.

Friday, December 23, 2016

RonnieAdventure #0235 - Gilgal Garden,Salt Lake City, Utah

"Gilgal" means "circle of sacred stones"
The Gilgal Garden in Salt Lake City (Utah), an historic sculpture garden created by Thomas G. Child, Jr, is an enlightening place to spend an afternoon and "ponder the unsolved mysteries of life."

Child once wrote: "If you want to be brought down to earth in your thinking and studying, try to make your thoughts express themselves with your hands." He then went on to say: "You don't have to agree with me...You may think I am a nut, but I hope I have aroused your thinking and curiosity."

The Gardens are Child's attempt to give physical form to his deep-felt believes by portraying his thoughts through artistic creativity. The Garden contains twelve major areas with over 70 engraved stones. The themes of the twelve areas are primarily biblical, but some famous quotes are also included.

Child started working on the Gardens in 1945 when he was 57 years old. He had been a masonry contractor most of his life and worked on the Gardens until he died in 1963 at 73 years of age. Most of the money he spent developing the Gardens came from his savings and a large part of the garden cost was moving large boulders from around the state to his back yard. In 2000 the Gardens became a Salt Lake City Park.

As you enter the Gardens, the first monument is a 38-ton engraved silica quartzite stone titled: Captain of the Lord's Host, which represents the captain who appeared to Joshua and gave him a plan to assure victory over Jericho. Visitors often asked Child if he planned to finish the head, and he replied: "No, I intend to leave it as it is thereby taking advantage of the liberties of modern art. The nature of this monument does not require accuracy...It is sometimes more potent to suggest and cause wonderment than to explain in detail."

Located behind the monument is a nice meditation area that contains a patio of engraved stones and boulders, consisting primarily of scriptures, hymns, and well known statements.

Child used a verse from Isaiah 2:4 for his Monument to peace, which states "...and they shall beat their swords into plow shares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

The Last Chapter of The Book of Ecclesiastes monument contains objects from Ecclesiastes 12:5-6, which states: "...the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden...the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bow be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern." Child planted an almond tree on the mound and it flourished, despite Utah's cold winters. The Almond tree died in 1963, the same year that Child died.

The Elijah's Cave monument represents the shelter that Elijah went to after fleeing into the wilderness to save his live. Engraved on a nearby stone it states "He who reads me in ashes is my son in wishes," which indicates that "his ideas portrayed in Gilgal Garden would live on after his death."

In Malachi 4:5-6 it states: "...I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to the fathers..." In this monument, the white heart represents the dead while the red heart represents the living. The two hands are reaching down to turn the hearts toward each other.

The Daniel II: Nebuchadnezzar's Dream monument represents the "shattered giant from the biblical story of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Nebuchadnezzar sees a great image with a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet of iron and clay."

Child was a great admirer of Job and his unwavering faith, so he chose to engrave Job 19:23-27 upon a stone to grant Job his wish. "Oh that my words were now written! Oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see Go: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me."

The stone came from the Salt Lake Valley and Child said that "This rock was very pleasing to me, as I wanted a sort of worn, worm eaten appearance, which I felt harmonized with Job's sick and worn out condition." It then required two granite cutters four weeks to cut the lettering in the stone. After the letters had been cut in the stone, Child's son-in-law developed a special tip for an oxyacetylene torch so that soft lead could be melted and pounded into the half-inch deep letters. After completing the monument, the oxyacetylene torch was embedded into the bottom of the stone.

Child hired sculptor Maurice Brooks to create a marble bust of his wife to show his great love and admiration for her. A panel in front of the bust states: "Soul partner and sole part of all my joys, dearer thyself than all." According to family members, "the bust is not a particularly good likeness of Bertha who was much more beautiful and lively than she appears here."

The stone eagles placed on the east side of the property were salvaged from Salt Lake City's Bamberger Railway Station to symbolize Child's patriotism.

In this self-portrait monument Child holds a Bible under his right arm and blueprints under his left arm to signify his great love for religion and the masonry trade. The flagstones in the monument walls were cut by hand and meticulously laid with perfectly even joints, which was typical of Child's work. Hanging on the walls are "the hand tools of the skilled masonry craftsmen Child sought to honor."

Located on a rock slab symbolizing an ancient alter is a brick furnace "that would have been used for burning sacrificial offerings." The Alter represents Child's belief that "there is no religion without sacrifice."

The Sphinx sculpture represents a crouching animal with the face of Joseph Smith, the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon Church). Child believed that "the answers to life's great questions cannot be discovered with the intellect, but only through faith. The sphinx is an ancient symbol of riddles and mystery. Joseph Smith's face symbolizes...that the LDS Priesthood reveals to mankind the answers to life's mysteries."

The Monument to the Priesthood consists of four parts - the four cast-stone books represent the standard scriptures used by the LDS church (Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Grat Price), The books are placed on a large stone that symbolizes the Rock of Revelations on which the LDS Church is built. A tall spire of quartzite aggregate "...represents the LDS Priesthood.  The taller shaft symbolizes the Melchizedek Priesthood while the shorter side represents the Aaronic Priesthood. Atop the spire is a wire sculpture of the Angle Moroni." Unfortunately, Child died before he finished the large purple boulder that would have represented a globe and placed on top of the four books of scripture.

It is unclear what the arch represents, but it is listed as part of the moment; but no explanation is given. It looks a lot like Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, so maybe it represents Utah.

Although not listed as a monument, there are two interesting birdhouses on the property.

While we were in Utah, we stopped in Highland to see a production of Annie. The attractive cast was outstanding and they presented a very professional performance!