My Last Day in the Badlands

I spent about 7 hours exploring new areas of Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness and looking for Sternberg’s stump. So what is Sternberg’s stump? Charles H. Sternberg was an American paleontologist in the early part of the 1900’s. He collected in Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah and found fossils of the Pentaceratops dinosaur and other animals. He also found petrified logs and stumps. There is one stump that is named after him. There is also a hoodoo named after him where the skull of the Pentaceratops was found. I had a location for the stump but not the hoodoo. There exists a photo of Sternberg standing next to the hoodoo. I started walking along the southern hills, cliffs and hoodoos of Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah wash.


The wash is probably several miles across with badlands on either side. The wash is vegetated where there is sand but pretty sterile where clay predominates. The area must have gotten some recent rain since the grasses were green and some plants were blooming.


There were many areas of hoodoos. I’ll call this area the mushroom field. There were button-like mushrooms – sandstone caps that had fallen to the ground and more normal mushrooms with a stem and cap. A cap of brown sandstone and stems of light colored clay. This is only a small part of the mushroom field.


After walking several miles I finally found Sternberg’ stump. This is it. It’s completely exposed petrified tree stump, having eroded out of the surrounding matrix. I couldn’t find Sternberg’s hoodoo where he found the Pentaceratops skull. Maybe next time.


I noticed that there were lots other petrified tree remains out on the flat areas of the wash nearby. There aren’t too many logs like you’d get at Petrified Forest National Park only lots of piles of fragments.


I did find some really well preserved petrified stumps in situ with roots still showing apparently still in the material that covered up the stump thousands of years ago.


Towards the end of my hike I a came across a coal stream. This stream has down cut into a coal layer. Although most of the stream was dry there were damp areas that had a weird color probably due to the chemicals from the coal.


As I walked back I enjoyed the colors and hoodoos. Here again are a few photos. My walk in the wilderness was over but I will come back in the future. I love hiking around these desolate colorful interesting badlands. On this day I did meet another hiker – another photographer.


On to Taos tomorrow.





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