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The Northern Nevada Meteorite Hunting Trip of 2019

After a couple months of discussing and planning the day of the Northern Nevada Meteorite Trip of 2019 arrived. The safari for me began at 4:45 AM on Sunday, June 16 when I started the car for the 500 mile trip up to Winnemucca where I would stay the night. Richard Garcia and Dave Libuszowski were staying there too at the same hotel. They had done this before and recommended the Winnemucca Inn and Casino. This was a trip by myself and a long ride so I wanted to get that early start. But the plan had been to leave at about 5:30 AM. Guess I was a bit too excited. I woke up early and could not get back to sleep so I was off and on the freeway by just before five. The first stop for me was for gas and a bite to eat in Lone Pine, California. I was surprized by the amount of snow still on the mountains. There would be snow still on many mountains we would see on the trip.

Even in late June, there was still much snow on the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Then it was up to Bishop where I left the 395 and took Interstate 6 East. There is little in the way of services on much of the trip. I met the 95 North and took it the rest of the way to Winnemucca, Nevada. I got there about five minutes after 1 PM which was a little early to check in but they let me just fine and I found a nice room and tried to get a nap. I had spoken a couple times along the way with Richard and knew they were going to arrive in a couple hours. I did not get any sleep but the resting time was almost as good.
Eric Rasmussen was on his way too but was going to stay in Fallon, Nevada for the night. Richard and Dave arrived and got settled a little and we headed to the restaurant at the hotel. None of us wanted to give up the great parking spots we had and none of us had any room in the cars for others to sit if we went somewhere else to eat. Later we would find out that there was a shuttle van that serviced four hotels including ours and we used it to go to dinner on another night when we returned to Winnemucca.
We hung out in the casino for a while after dinner chatted and watched the activities of all the people.

We rose early and had breakfast at the hotel and headed to Walmart and the gas station on the edge of town. All supplied with groceries for the trip we got on Jungo Road and drove to Jungo Dry Lake. Soon we had quite an interesting experience. Just a few miles from Winnemucca the road was covered for about ten miles with billions of crickets. They were on parade walking and hopping across the road we were on. It was weird and I hoped not an omen of an Egyptian plague that might overshadow our trip. We saw another large swarm later as we headed to Tungsten Dry Lake on the last day of the trip. But I had never seen so many crickets before in my life and in general, I don’t like bugs much. So it was a little creepy to me.

The swam of Mormon Crickets we passed on Monday morning was gone from the road without a trace when we came back two days later. The millions of dead crushed insects on the road had been eaten by others of their kind following behind in the swam which can move as much as 2 kilometers a day. Mormon Crickets are cannibals.

Jungo Dry Lake is one of the larger lakes I have hunted and this was my first time to see it. I followed the other guys as they drove to meet up with Eric who had been there for a couple hours. We settled in and unpacked, set up chairs and tables and then made our way out to hunt. I was not really sure what the meteorites on Jungo looked like and since there were I guessed several different ones it might not have mattered even if I did. I had to look for anything and everything that resembled a meteorite. It was only maybe an hour or so that I heard over the radio that Eric had found a fifty-gram meteorite. I was happy for that meant that there were still meteorites on the lake to find and that not all the bigger ones had been found either. Here are images of Eric’s find in situ and of the meteorite.

Eric’s 55 gram Jungo find shown on the ground where he found it.
Here is another image of the nice meteorite Eric recovered.

We hunted all day an I found nothing, but it was early in the trip and we had other places to go. We were going to stay at Jungo for just the one day according to the pretrip plan and then go to three other lakes and stay there one day also. So my time to find a meteorite on Jungo where stones had been found before was getting a little short. The trip would then be a search for meteorites on lakes that were unhunted and that kind of cold hunting is much more challenging and not as mentally easy for me. I have a thing in my head that encourages me when I hunt where meteorites have been found. It is a feeling that there is a chance I can find one too. But going to new territory leaves me without that extra bit of encouragement. As the day was coming to an end and the sun was getting low I had to make my way on foot back to camp. Richard, Dave, and Eric all had ATVs and could stay out some time longer.

Richard headed out east from camp with the shadows growing long on the ground. But soon we heard over the radio that he had found a 200-gram meteorite. Dave was still out and made his way to the spot. They documented the find photographically and with GPS. Richard rolled back into camp a pretty happy boy holding what is the most beautiful meteorite I have ever personally seen found. The stone was about the size of a tennis ball and there were melted chondrules visible on the surface. Chondrules of all sides from very large to small. The stone had only a light pull on a rare earth magnet so my first thought was an LL chondrite. It was a truly great find. So now it was up to Dave and me to find something in the morning before we headed out to the next lake.

Here is the picture of Richard’s meteorite as it appeared on the ground when he found it near nightfall.

Dave has been working with drones for a while and he brought a new one to this trip. It was way cool. Has a 4K camera that is on a gimble and stays level or moves to where he points it no matter how the drone turns. He flew it at Jungo the first morning. He was trying to really document this trip. We hunted for a few hours in the morning the second day and neither he or I found a meteorite. And it was time to move to the next lake. I packed up my Jeep and the guys packed their vehicles and we made our way off the lake and on to the dirt road that runs next to it for the drive to the next lake quite a way farther up this valley complex. I have been skunked many times hunting so I was not really bothered by not having found anything yet. There were days still and other lakes still ahead. I stayed in the back of the line of cars most of the time on the trip. It was a comfortable place. And I could lay back a little out of the dust of the other jeeps, trailers, and trucks. But we slowed down and came to a stop on the road after just a couple minutes. The word came across the radios that Dave had stopped to fly his drone over us as we traveled to the next lake. His drone has a feature that lets it follow the person operating it as they move and a return button that will bring it home. So for a few minutes, the drone flew above us and around us and up and down passed us as we drove. Then Dave brought it in close and hovered it near his truck and grabbed it. Very cool.

https://youtu.be/cKQrIhGmm1A

Drone technology has come a long way in the last few years and this video makes it look like maybe even I could learn to work one now. Dave, however, is a real master drone pilot.

An antelope ran across the dirt road in front of my car and I was able to slow down and take an image before it was too far away. Later a mama and baby antelope would also run across in front of my car on the last day of the trip. Other than that I did not see too much wildlife besides birds and a single horned toad lizard that I got some images of.

This little guy was perfectly content to stand still while I took several images. He may have been thinking that I had not seen him move and that he was invisible but that was not the case. But, I probably would have missed seeing him if he had not run out of the bushes.
Here are the four adventuresome meteorite hunters posing by the side of the dirt road just before turning off to the second dry lake.

We took this group image just before we left the main road (dirt still) and headed off onto a really bad dirt road to the dry lake which I dont yet know the name of. The other guys were all higher up with more ground clearance than my Jeep Compass. I have lots of power and traction control and stabilization control and the good stuff needed for my four-wheeling but the ruts in this dirt road were really awfully deep. So I road on the center berm and the edge on the side and stayed out of the ruts whenever possible. It was OK and I did not have to change my shorts after the drive to the lake.
This second lake was pristine I do not think meteorite hunters had ever been there. There were no tracks on the lake and the things we found and did not find on the lake made me think that maybe only actual hunters had been there occasionally to make the rutted road. We made a sandwich after unpacked the cars and then headed out for several hours of hunting. I walked about a third of the edge of the lake searching what was in sight of the shore, in about fifty yards. The guys drove their ATVs all around the lake and found nothing. I had found nothing except some flakes of obsidian from a native American hunter several hundred or thousands of years ago who did some knapping while awaiting the arrival at the water’s edge of an animal. There were no rusty cans or trash of any kind. Also no meteorites from the hunting we did. Dave had commented over the radio as we drove in about the great quantity of white quartz that was exposed near the road. So he and I headed off in that direction after we stopped hunting meteorites to do some gold detecting for a while. The impromptu vote was to go back toward Jungo and head to another lake where meteorites had been found in the past, maybe Black Rock Dry Lake. So off we go back down the terribly rutted road. It was traversed safely again. I stopped for a moment to grab the following image of the BLM marker next to the road. I try to image them whenever I see them.

This is the Cadastral Survey marker I saw beside the horrible dirt road and I stopped to grab an image. Cadastral Surveys are focused on land ownership and the establishment of borders rather than simply locating the spot on the Earth as with Geodetic Surveys. The markers from a distance look the same until closer inspection will reveal the differing print on them.

A little investigation after getting to Jungo Road revealed that Black Rock Dry Lake was too far to travel to so it was back to Jungo Dry Lake.

We drove all the way across the lake this time to the eastern side where both Eric and Richard had found their meteorites. We would hunt the rest of that day and half the next day and then go into Winnemucca for a night’s rest and fun in the casino and a good dinner out somewhere. So I unpacked the car so I would have my sleeping place in the evening and put on sunblock, threw my bandana on top of my head to cover my neck and put my hat on to hold the bandana. I grabbed my magnet stick and headed out to hunt east of my car. I was out about an hour when I realized I had forgotten my hunting bag. I had no liquid, no GPS no diamond file or loupe. I had my phone but no service. I was in sight of the car the whole time only a few hundred yards away ever. I was hunting through the piles of rocks that surround the hummocks along the shore of the dry lake. Sometimes there are several hundred stones in these lines and piles. It was in one of these piles that I saw a black rock that was shaped different and had an orange rusty colored spot on it. I was pretty sure that my magnet would stick to it. But there are some rocks at this lake that stick as good to my magnet as actual iron or steel. And there are thousands of them and they are also pure black. I reached out with the stick and the stone stuck. Once it was in my hand I was sure that it was a meteorite. I had not seen Eric’s and this one was nothing like Richard’s. So I did a short little find video for Dave’s documentation with my cell phone. I could not call him having forgotten everything back at the camp. It had nice rolled edges, fusion crust with contraction cracks and the spot of rusty color. It was also heavier than if terrestrial. I did not have my GPS or service on my phone so I could not record the location. I would have to come back later and take that info from the site. But I got an image of the location with the meteorite returned to the ground for a second then it was into my pocket secure for the walk back to my car and the “show the other guys moment.”

https://youtu.be/kxYSEqtbcvI

This is the short video I made because I could not call Dave to come over and make a nicer one. It is always pretty exciting to be the first person to hold a rock which is not originally from this planet. And after two hard days of hunting, this nice one was an extra thrill.

These images are of the sides of the 122 gram Jungo Dry Lake meteorite I found after it had been cleaned up at home. It has one flatly broken side that could easily be lapped into a window but I never do anything to the meteorites I find unless it is to cut a piece off for classification, which won’t happen here.

My meteorite find weighs 122 grams and now occupies the spot of biggest meteorite I have found beating out my 116 gram Gold Basin. I have found over 200 meteorites but a hundred of those are Holbrooks weighing from a few milligrams to several grams. Most of my finds are in the 5 gram to 50-gram range from places other than Holbrook.

The sun was getting over in the west as I walked back to camp. I arrived and showed them the stone and it received a friendly “hello nice to meet you meteorite” greeting from the guys. It was Dave’s turn to find one this trip though he had found a very beautiful 150+ gram stone on a trip to Jungo previously. We all wanted him to find one this trip so there could be no skunks on Jungo this time.

We had beautiful Sunrises and Sunsets and also as seen here big bright full moons rising over the distant mountains.

We sat around another campfire as we had the nights before telling stories and reliving adventures. Like man has done since the beginning of time. Campfires just bring such things out in men. It was late when we finally turned in. Morning would come and we would hunt a few hours then head back to town ready for a shower and to sleep in a bed. We were all delighted when Dave found a meteorite the next morning.

Dave’s Jungo find is seen on the left and his Tungsten finds are all cleaned up on the right.

I hunted a while in the morning then just rested under my umbrellas in my camp chair watching the dust devils race across the lake bed. There had been some strong winds but overall the weather had been good. Not killer hot but really warm midday. Then the breeze would pick up and make it much more pleasant to hike. I was having to walk everywhere so I might have noticed the comfort of the breeze a little more. No one found any more meteorites. I hunted too until about 2:30. We packed up and drove back into town.

Thursday morning we gassed up and headed out of Winnemucca toward Battle Mountain and the turn off that would take us south to our last stop this trip Tungsten Dry Lake. As we drove by Battle Mountain Richard told us over the radios about the hunt there a few years ago, and where he had camped and showed us the entrance road into the area. Perhaps sometime we might go back there and hunt. Only thing is the snakes, I hate snakes.

The dirt road into Tungsten was identical to what we had at that other lake. Deeply rutted and dusty and I road the berm again but we arrived on the far side of the lake. There I found that Dave had only seen the lake color change at the last moment and his antilock brakes had not stopped him as fast as needed and he was stuck in the mud of an otherwise totally dry lake. In about five minutes a tow strap had been attached and he was pulled out by Eric, problem over.

https://youtu.be/pGVue7W-7oM

Here is a short video I made while Dave’s truck was being pulled from the mud. We were four well-prepared explorers so it was a short job to get him out.

We were all away from that part of the lake by several yards so we left the cars and started hunting. The guys roared off on their ATVs and I started walking and hunting toward the far end. I had a pretty good idea of what these would look like. Richard and Dave had said like Stewart Valley only a bit darker. I have been to Stewart Valley Dry Lake several times and found many pieces so their description made sense to me. The first piece was found and reported over the radio within just a few minutes then another and another by everyone. I had not found one and the thought of skunk began to form ghostly in the back of my mind. But we had just arrived and I was still far from that portion of the lake if that was where they were. Then a few minutes later I found a small fragment and then another. So no skunks for this lake either. It was a fine thing that everyone found something on each location where there were finds. As I hiked to the end of the lake I passed another BLM marker and grabbed an image of it too. I ended up with 11 pieces of Tungsten Dry Lake with a total weight of 13.4 grams. The largest of my Tungsten Dry Lake finds which are named Tunsten Mountain in the Met Bulletin was 3.8 grams.

Here is the second Cadastral marker of this trip. This one is located on the lake bed where the Tungsten Mountain meteorites are found. It is harder to read being covered with lake bed clay that I could only partially wipe away. It was set in 1970 where the one shown early was set in place in 1969.
These are the Tungsten dry lake finds I made this trip all cleaned up ready to put in a Riker box.

After a couple hours of hunting, Eric who had the longest drive came on the radio saying he was going to start heading home. He had found a nice batch of fragments. He swung by each of us on his ATV and said goodbye. He spoke to me last over where I had hiked to. I had a few fragments too by then. He took off after our moment of chatting for his truck. Several minutes later I hear on the radio a kind of cryptic report that the cars are in water and mud. I saw Richard roaring toward me and I had my keys in my hands for a handoff as he passed me just slowing a little. I am about a twenty minute or more walk from my Jeep by now and running across the lake which is several thousand feet higher elevation than my home was not high on my list of things to do. As I headed back toward my car could see the trucks and trailers being moved and then Richard moved my car. He cleared enough space on his front seat for me to sit and came down and drove me to the near disaster site. I belived as I think the others did that the lake was drying out from the rains a couple days before but still had a small wet area in the low spot along the one side. However, it seems that it was not drying out at all but being feed water coming down from the surrounding mountains underground. In the two hours or so since pulling Dave’s truck out of the mud the muddy spot had become water that filled the ruts from his tires and spread all the way up to Richard’s Jeep and trailer which had a couple tires in the mud.

This image shows how much water has filled the lake floor in two hours. The water is nearly overflowing the deep ruts in the mud where Dave’s truck was stuck and has spread to where we were parked.

My car would have been next along with Eric if he had stayed. Dave was farthest but would have been in the water later too. We moved all the cars to the other end of the lake where the meteorites were being found and hunted a few more hours. The disaster was adverted by Eric leaving when he did and finding the spreading water.
We all had about a dozen pieces of meteorite by the time we pulled out around 2:45 PM. I made it through the nasty rutted dirt road one more time and onto the highway.

I followed Richard and Dave to Austin a small and ancient town with tremendous history in Nevada mining. We filled up on gas and headed to Tonopah where we would say our goodbyes. I was heading west once again on Interstate 6 toward Bishop and they were heading down 95 to Las Vegas. We pulled into a gas station in Tonopah and topped off. I was back to that 120 miles of no service portion of my drive so I wanted a full tank. Same thing for them I think. It was a great trip and I thanked Dave and Richard for all they had done to put it together for us.

We would exchange images and videos in the next few days. I think all of us were really looking forward to seeing Dave’s video.
So with a happy heart, I headed into the sun toward Bishop. Almost immediately I realized what had happened to me on our last trip to Franconia when my lips got horribly sunburned and took three weeks to get fully healed. It was not the hunting on the trip for I had used plenty of sunblock. It was the 5-hour drive into the sun with the visor down so I could see but the bottom half of my face in the sun. So I grabbed one of my bandanas and tied it around my face and put my sunglasses back on and looked like a motorcycle rider without the bike for the next two hours. It made it harder to eat the wonderful cookies that Richard’s wife Monika had baked for us but I managed to get more than I should have consumed. Dinner finally was gotten in Bishop and then I had a tough four-hour drive in 50+ MPH winds all the way home.

What a fantastic trip of meteorite hunting and fun with a great bunch of guys again. I cleaned the meteorites, weighed them and took pictures for this article and sent off video and images to Dave for the YouTube he was doing. You can see that here and it is really cool so jump over there and have some fun watching us out hunting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfKNv4RZ5pw

Richard’s beautiful Jungo find weighed in at 207.8g
Richard’s Tungsten finds were a total weight of 9.1g with the largest being 4.1g.
These are Richard’s finds after cleaning at home. His large complete Jungo meteorite weighing 207.8 grams is of course on the left and his Tungsten finds are on the right.

Eric’s Jungo find was 55 grams and looked black like the one I found.

Here is our final shot of the week with us holding our Jungo Dry Lake finds.

From left to right in the image are Richard Garcia, Dave Libuszowski, Eric Rasmussen and myself all happy boys with newly found meteorites.
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