A day off not spent in transit - the Ymir General Store, out prospecting for gold...

The typical selection of business cards with some rather "original" art. "Prince Philip"? WTF? Is there some sort of bizarre Cargo Cult out here? Did he visit?

Anyways, take it to the next level with this:

Posted on the outside. There's so much wrong with this, and yet there's so much right as well, and it is, if nothing else, inspiring...

On the whirlwind tour of Calgary with the daughter, "If you had a father for 8 hours, where would you like to go?" I ask, and she wanted to revisit Drumheller, go searching for dinosaurs in the badlands, relive better memories of her youth, and so after the 7 hour haul from Nelson to Calgary I picked her up from school and we went onward to Drumheller.

It's been a few years, changed a lot, a lot of new twee museums and amusements designed to capitalize on the tourist dollars, the audio/visual museum (??), dunno, a Star Trek museum, which doesn't make sense unless you think of that episode with Captain Kirk and the Gorn, and then it does, and all sorts of other fleeting attractions caught from the corner of our eyes. I'd stop, but our time is limited, we fill up at McDonalds, visit Dollorama for drinks, and then head off into the canyons...

A beautiful day. Not too hot, big Cumulus clouds building in the background, perfect for this...

Walking, a thousand little dead-end canyons to explore, our first real find:

Which, if you look close, is a piece of quartzite boulder napped into the shape of a hide scraper. A native artifact. 

Big, the base (bottom) would fill the palm of your hand, the edges obviously shaped: most boulders in these canyons are complete, and better artifacts are found made from better materials, and with clearly better workmanship, but the napping on the edges, several flakes broken off, suggest this was made with purpose. It's a prize.

(Note: That said, I'm pretty bad at mis-identifying things as "Native artifacts" ... and it's very possible this isn't...but, it seems a little too convenient that nature would have napped this boulder several times to produce this flake, hard enough to find a single broken boulder, let alone one that's been broken and broken again. I vote artifact.)

And from here onto other finds:

Dinosaur bone in soil...

Dinosaur vertebrae (left), leg and claw (Right).

***

As always we find dozens of bones, but that's not why were here, it's a competition to find the best skull, get naming rights on a new species, and in our few hours we find nothing we can interest the museum in, but there's always a thousand more canyons to lead us on, and the day is ending too soon, we're just beginning and we have to get back to Calgary for dinner with the boy, I could spend weeks out here, and she's giving me to believe she could too, endless little dead-ends to explore, countless eroding discoveries, and the thought of having to be back to work by tomorrow are killing me, but I'll be back next year with a week or two to kill and then we'll be finding it all...

The past few weeks, having found abundant crystals, I've gone looking for other gems and stones of interest. And it's not been too successful, a few hundred dollars gas, a few thousand km on logging roads, and verily nothing to show for it. 

The first claim, well away from civilization, but there's logging road access, and I check Google Maps and plan my routes...

Drive 10 K in route one, run into deep snow, too early yet...

Route 2, at 12 KM in, is blocked by a rockfall, sheer cliffs on either side make driving around it impossible, and if I had an 8 or 10 foot bar I just might be able to move a few and open it up again, but for the moment it's out of the question. 

This day is a failure. 

I choose another location for my next days off, same mineralogy, different area. And driving in, on a decommissioned logging road, up, up, slowing down for 3' deep ruts every hundred meters, and getting closer, getting closer, and then no....

Somehow the map, the google satellite view, it's wrong, and so I try another approach, follow the map on google, but am bushwhacked and slapped by a thousand saplings that have sprouted up on the clearly marked satellite view, have to stop, this is insane, and try another route...

A one mile hike in, on a clean logging road inaccessible by car, but the claim, it's just over that creek, that teeny tiny creek on the map, that just happens to be about 10 meters wide and in full spring runoff...

Fail.

(view from logging road to nowhere...)

All these failures, they're making me a bit obsessive, and the week following I go to try again, the boys here to visit, he'll love this...

But the road, no more snow, and driving further in, further in, we run into a landslide. Proper full on landslide, road closed, forever.

Still 15 to 20 KM from the target, I can write off this access point. Completely.

We've had a few of these failures, and so I take him to a few places where I know we'll find something, this prospecting, it's 99.9% looking and .1 percent finding, and he's getting a little discouraged, but I take him to few of the places I know where we can find crystals and poke about and explore, where we can get where we're going to...

Inside a very dodgy mine. Touch nothing, and limit the depth of one's exploration...

But some great photo ops, and the boy acknowledges this day isn't so much the write off other days have been...

The stopes falling over, and a ceiling, low and stooped slowly in the process of falling in...

When the boy is gone I return, back to the original quest, location 2, park at the closest access and get out and walk. 10 KM on a road that's been overgrown for 20 years, covered in deciduous saplings, had to get out and fill in ruts on the road for half an hour at a time to even get this close, and eventually, finding the claim, searching it over for minerals of interest, there are things of interest, for sure, but nothing so obvious that I can put my finger on, and 10 KM in means 10 KM out, it's a damned big area, a steep mountainside, and I've only an hour before the sun begins to set, grab a few samples, nothing extraordinary, lots to explore, but this hike in, out, it's grueling, no trail, forever being swatted with trees and branches, I won't be back here anytime soon, there are ample other places to investigate...

All in all a full month of failures, some new discoveries, but nothing I can monetize as of yet, and it's proven the old adage "The Map is Not the Territory", the map, google maps, easily 20 or more years out of date and I can't help thinking but there's got to be an easier way...

And so it goes. Bought groceries, Dollarama, while generally I pack hunger along on my vacations the daughter has gotten a little loud with her complaining. I'm pretty much prepared on every level (except where I've left a little room for adventure, I expect he/she to be joining us.) Now to fix the car stereo (50 or so hours driving with only the daughter singing Taylor Swift songs is a bit much, I'm sure you'll agree), download some podcasts (she's being proselytized to the "think for yourself" camp), annotate my maps and we'll be off...

Where to go, where to go?

That's rhetorical, of course, I've trimmed the road trip from Tennessee to Utah, stopping in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, maybe a quick trip to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon (10 minutes should do it...), over to Nevada to check Vegas out (daughter is curious, I've been, but I'm curious about the thrift shops, imagining I'll come away with some real bargains on Lion Tamer and Band Major outfits...), then back through Idaho...

Where to stop, where to go, what to see?

Well, that's the purpose of the maps. And there are tens of thousands of places to stop, of course, thankfully we've covered Yellowstone a few times...

But I don't think she's ever been to Little Bighorn, Custer's Last Stand, the boy and I went, put history to the famous self-same phrase, and I want to share the same experiences with her that I shared with him...

This, of course, where I can, As Utah and Colorado (mostly) is new, our adventures will be unique to ourselves...And as these destinations are new I'm doing a little research to ensure no time is wasted...I'd like to do some rockhounding, what is there to find, I wonder? A little bit of searching and...

OK. So I'm going to have to narrow that down a bit, we've only a week or so (less transport), I'll be a bit selective...

No Fee Digging, that's for sure (there are some excellent fee digging sites in Nevada, for example, Opals, ranging in cost from $600 per person per day to a "mere" $70 per day to dig through tailings. To dig through tailings. Yeah. No.

But as you survey the map you'll see there's a lot of other options...

Then there's the Caves. Lots of Caves in Utah, the daughter likes caves, we should hit a couple...

And hot-springs. No vacation to the US is complete without hot-springs (the ones in the river on the North End of Yellowstone were a perennial hit with the kids).

Then there's the Smith Mansion in Wyoming and the Magic Underpants in Salt Lake City (souvenirs for the Boy, who can't join us).

There's Petroglyphs, we gotta see some of those. And the Pueblos. And the red-rock canyons, a few hikes for sure, there's Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park and Arches National Park and The Narrows and I'm already feeling a bit overwhelmed and we haven't even left...