Sunday, March 22, 2009

March 2009 Ant Hill CFMS Field Trip

On Saturday, March 21, 2009, I attended my first CFMS (California Federation of Mineralogical Societies) field trip which was a visit to Ant Hill outside of Bakersfield and across the Kern River from the famous Shark's Tooth Hill.

This field trip was led by the infamous rockhounding raconteur Shep Koss which was a good thing because this was my first visit ever to this location and I needed the proverbial "trainer wheels" my first visit there.

I must say I was very excited to finally make it to this locale that I've heard so much about over the years and it's nice to know where it is now and what to look for when I come back in the future on my own.

I set my alarm for 4:30 AM as I had to make breakfast, get my truck packed with what I needed and then drive out to my friend Dave Brooks' house out in the Adelaida area west of Paso Robles as I would be parking my vehicle at his place and carpooling with him to Ant Hill.

I had NO intention of leaving my truck parked all day in the neighborhood in Paso Robles where the Santa Lucia Rockhounds and SLO Gem & Mineral Club were to rendezvous prior to convoying to Ant Hill.

I AM NOT a morning person (I'm a night owl) and getting up before 5 AM TWICE in a month's time is perhaps a first in my life not to mention an alarming development.

The first light of dawn became discernible only by the time I was driving on Vineyard Avenue near Highway 46 West en route to Dave's place.

It was misty and drizzly for the most part during the drive on into Paso from Dave's place and it made me worry the storm that was to hit Saturday night was arriving early and might adversely effect the comfortableness of the field trip.

Another thing that concerned me was the realization that I neglected to bring extra layers of clothing in the event it was cold and windy or cold and rainy at any point in the day.

We all left around 7:20 AM and headed out Highway 46 East towards the Kern County and the San Joaquin Valley (Central Valley).

Strangely, once we got into eastern SLO Co/ western Kern County the precipitation stopped and a bit later the low clouds broke up and it was clear and sunny with just a few high clouds and a layer of low-laying clouds behind us to the west from whence we came.

Normally, the Central Valley this time of year is oft clabbered up with fog while the Central Coast is clear and sunny but today the roles were switched.

Our drive to Bakersfield was uneventful by way of Highway 46 East to Highway 99 and that south to Highway 178 which we then took east through and out of Bakersfield proper and out into the area on the northeast margins of the Bakersfield area which are the front lines between New California (rampant development) and Old California (the natural world).

We turned off of Highway 178 at Alfred Harrell Highway and took it north and around the corner to the left and back west a very short distance to Ant Hill.

When we first arrived at Ant Hill we found ourselves pulling off the road at Morning Drive which wends its way through the Ant Hill site but is off-limits to motorized vehicles and we saw no other vehicles.

However, off in the distance to the west we could see scores of people walking up to and about the Ant Hill site.

Therefore, we got back on the highway and drove a short distance down to where all those people appeared to be disgorging from and saw a packed parking lot and drove down into it and squeezed into one of the last remaining empty spots.

What follows is my day in photographs.

It was nice to see the large and enthusiastic turnout for this field trip.
Seen here at right are Santa Lucia Rockhounds Barbara Bilyeu and Joyce Baird.

My friend David loading up our cart while Tequila ambles about.

Even more folks had shown up by the time I was walking away from the parking lot.

David proudly posing next to his expertly-packed mobile rockhound module.

Not long after getting to the dig site we encountered this Northern Pacific Rattlesnake.

David is a herpetology buff and really "dug" the Crotalus oreganus oreganus at the dig.

Tequila asking me to let her off the leash while also telling me she felt a bit hot.

David working a dig.

My first dig site which also yielded my first shark's tooth once I got to screening.

Some smallish tabular petrified bone inside a concretion.
Concretions are common here and worth checking inside.

David and Shep Koss talking about the rattler and sharks and other guy stuff.

Wootz! My first ever shark tooth (anywhere/anytime).
I found a total of five for the day, but this was the largest.

Petrified bone inside another concretion.

David cleaning out our largest and most ambitious dig of the day.

Shep tutoring some of the folks.
What would we have done without him?

SLO Gem & Mineral Club Secretary Lynette Bayless getting down and dirty.

I came upon a guy late in the day working a hole with a bone-filled concretion.

The guy's name was Scott Harlan from the Salinas area.

David holding a large concretion I found and dug out.

Me holding my prize I hoped contained something cool.

Shep led our careful opening and inspection of the concretion.

The concretion contained nothing but a small amount of rotten bone.

On the other hand, Scott had a winner concretion and knew it.

Tequila started earnestly and self-importantly digging.
First I wondered if she was merely imitating us digging.
Then I began to wonder if she was about to squat.

As it turned out she was constructing a nest for her butt to sit on.

Wimins, I tell ya....

After a couple of hours of assisting Scott he finally got his concretion out of the hole.

It broke up once he got it out of the hole, but no prob, no broken bones!

Scott couldn't wait to get home before doing some cleaning to see what he got.

Scott soon found at least one really good vertebra seen here. All photos by Kim Patrick Noyes (all rights reserved).

After we got Scott Harlan's bone concretion free we all left it on the hill and took our stuff down to the parking lot.

Once we had unpacked David's cart we lent it to Scott and his wife and they took it back up the hill and retrieved his concretion.

While we waited David and I continued to load up for our return to the Central Coast after dark as the Sun was now rapidly lowering.

We also got the opportunity to meet with some other rockhounds including rockhound and dealer David Walblom and his wife, CFMS Secretary Susan Chaisson-Walblom.

After the Harlans returned with their prize we loaded up the cart and retraced our route home.

It was a beautiful drive across the San Joaquin Valley with the Sun soon setting below the western horizon with a gold lining to the clouds hugging the Temblor Range to the west.

The sky was mostly clear of clouds which surprised me given how the day began and the forecast of the approaching storm that night. Actually, it seemed that as the day progressed the weather got nicer which was a nice surprise.

However, there were a series of cumulonimbus buildups visible in various directions in the northern half of the horizon which appeared to be located in the Sierra foothills and in the Coast Ranges northwest of Coalinga and points in between.

After dark some of these storms generated vivid lightening that was so cool we pulled off of Highway 46 and onto Devil's Den Road and stopped in the dark and watched for a short time.

We did stop for food in Wasco and found a great little local (non-chain) burger joint run by Indians (the sub-continental type) called "Jolly Kone." I found it interesting to watch it serving a mixed white farmer/brown farm worker community (what a great melting pot!).

Once we got back over into San Luis Obispo County we found ourselves back in low overcast with intensifying precipitation the further west we got until it was drizzling in Paso Robles where we got gas. It was downright raining out at David's abode (Adelaida area) where I picked up my pickup and drove home (where it wasn't raining a drop).

All in all this adventure was a real hoot and well worth the time and effort and money.

I know some folks expressed a concern about Valley Fever prior to the field trip.

If anybody on this field trip gets Valley Fever it will be me because I used no mask or other protection and I shoveled dumploads of dirt and breathed a lot of dust while screening material and I really got down and dirty helping Scott dig out his stubborn concretion.

Therefore, consider me your guinea pig in an unofficial experiment (or the canary in the mine!).

Now that I know where Ant Hill is I plan to go back as oft as I can (and not wear a mask).

I did talk to Shep and he generously agreed to join us (or perhaps I should say we join him) for a visit to Ant Hill next month to which I'm looking forward like an excited little kid.


  1. Wow! Awesome story and a great day to remember. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  2. Thanks for the great write up I couldn't make the trip this time. Shep is a "keeper" isn't he - one of the good guys!

    This is what I found on the trip we took we him last year

  3. Thanks for the great report, Kimmer!

  4. Scott Here-

    I have cleaned up and excavavted into that concretion, there was a tomn of stuff inside. I'm almost done putting it back together and will send pics when I'm done, probably this week.
    It appears to be fossil sea lion bones, and I think I have the cause of death: there were two large (2"+) sharks teeth in the concretion.

  5. I fortunately live nearby but due to weather conditions only dig 1 or 2 x's looks like all had a good time and some one took great photos. Excellent blog..Maxine from Lake Isabella

  6. There's a web page called A Visit To The Sharktooth Hill Bone Bed, Southern California over at .

  7. It sounds like your day was a very good one, weather and all cooperating. Thanks for the great report. I would love to go there when I am in the area next time.

  8. I am a geology student at CSU San Bernardino doing a research project on these concretions at Ant Hill... their existence may derive an answer for the diagenesis of the bone beds in that area... your story helped me a lot, seeing that many fossils are being found inside of these concretions.. More is yet to be discovered in and about these marvelous bone beds! cheers! Rachel

  9. Ok. It's been a year since I led this trip and was enjoyable to read the comments having read the report long ago. I've been back many times since (it helps living only 45 minutes away). Rachel, as to the concretions you may have noticed that they all exist well above the bonebed so my suspicion is they formed as that inland sea was in its drying (i.e. shallow) stages. I imagine that in shallower waters the tidal actions are freater leading to more concretions (mudballs rolling on the sea floor) as compared to when waters were deeper ( more bones and teeth layers). I've been lucky enough to find a VERY detailed large allodesmus (giant sea lion) male brain cast that came out of a concretion followed a few months later by a near complete allodesmus skull with brain cast, complete set of teeth and a fully articulated flipper set also found in a concretion. This last find now resides at the L.A. County Museum of Natural History. However, I have YET to find a meg tooth! Go figure!!
    Anyway, this area is soon slated to become hillside homes, mini-malls and gas stations so get 'em while the gettin's good. Kern County had no interest in preserving this area (the richest Miocene marine fossil bed in the world) but opted for tax dollars on homes instead. Again, go figure.

  10. I am so excited after reading this, My husband has been to Shark Tooth Hill and when he gets a break at his job, said that he will take me too. Let me explain, I was born in the Bay Area but was moved out of the area around the age of three, returned once for about three years and moved to Texas but, when I got married, i moved up north. I have been in the Dakota area for a good twenty years and have been reading up on the Shark Tooth Hill area. I am so facinated with fossils, old sharks teeth, and the such. Now I have to take a trip across the river and see Ant Hill too... I hope to go this summer, but unlike in your story, I will have to wear a mask due to the fungus spores, Im allergic to fungus, molds and mildew... I hope that it doesnt make my trip any less exciting, although I some how dont think that it will... Patsy