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I Hear Jasper Calling My Name
I'm not sure what it is about Jasper, TX that keeps calling me back. It could be the climate, or the people, but it's probably the petrified wood that keeps me coming back to Jasper with two ATVs, a 16' trailer, and a goal of collecting at least two thousand pounds of petrified wood...
We had planned to visit Toledo Bend Reservoir back in February to do some collecting with Rob Townsend, David Dobson, and others but couldn't make that trip due to weather. There were some great pieces of palm wood found on that trip by Rob and others, and the word from Rick Ramsey was that there was some really good collecting on the Louisiana side. This trip however, was to be concentrated near Jasper as the water levels at Toledo Bend were well above normal, and collecting wasn't feasible at the time.
I contacted Rob and David and arranged the trip for three days beginning March 9th, with the main collecting days to be Saturday the 10th and Sunday the 11th. Brandon and I drove most of the evening from Tulsa, and arrived in Jasper around 11:00pm Friday night. Another member of our Tulsa club, Fritz Hatley, was already in town and anxious to get collecting. This would be a first for Fritz, this type of collecting, and especially for specimens of the size I was looking for. David had arrived a bit earlier and was already checked in at the motel. I called Rob and he met Brandon and I at his cousin's place north of Jasper. I dropped the trailer there as we wouldn't be needing it until sometime the next day. We visited with Rob for nearly an hour before heading on in to Jasper. Since Rob had to work Saturday, we would be on our own most of the day. When we arrived at the motel, Fritz was enjoying the night air (hyper about the prospect of collecting the next day!) and we visited for a bit before settling down for the night.
The next morning, everyone was ready to go before the fog lifted, and we grabbed a quick breakfast from Mickey-D's before heading for a couple of spots Rob had told me about. We spent perhaps an hour at one spot without too much luck and decided to move on to the next place, which was a field adjacent to the RV Park where I had left the trailer. This spot yielded a little bit more in the way of pet wood, mostly smaller pieces, but David did manage a piece that weighed in around 150# and was about four feet long. After a couple of hours here, we decided to hook up the trailer and head for my favorite lease area not far away. This area always produces large pieces, and plenty of them! This time would be no different.
Since I hadn't been down here in over a year, and some of the terrain had changed, I had one of those senior moments (or Reagan-itis attacks as I like to call them) and had trouble finding the correct access road to the area. We drove around a bit and finally decided to go to the original access point and enter from there. David and Fritz headed off to check the nearby area and creek while Brandon and I unloaded the ATVs and headed for the larger area of logged property to the north. Within a few minutes we were heaving pieces of pet wood onto the ATVs, and set to digging out a few partially embedded pieces from a wash. I went to work on a piece I had discovered last year that weighed in around 600# and was completely buried.
This turned out to be the smaller of two pieces I eventually located and managed to get to the trailer. It took the combined efforts of all four of us to finally liberate this one from the compacted soil. Fritz decided he would stick to more manageable pieces under ten pounds, while David seemed to concentrate of the fifty pound and below chunks. I'm a bit less subtle, anything up to a thousand pounds is fair game where I am concerned. If I can figure out how to move it, it's going on the trailer! Lots of smaller pieces ended up on the trailer as well. Brandon located a nice round that weighs probably three hundred pounds. It can just be seen in the picture above at the far end of the larger log. At the same time as Brandon found this piece, I located a log from the heart of a tree. It seemed to me at first it must weigh in at least eight hundred pounds. I managed to move it a couple of feet with the Polaris, then it decided it wasn't going any further. I went to help Brandon with his log and recruited him with the other Polaris to help move the larger one.
With both ATVs hooked up and double the horsepower and traction, we got the log moving finally. After a few stalls and changes of direction, we managed to get to within a couple of hundred yards of the road before the logging trash, limbs, logs, and soft soil rendered the ATVs pretty much useless in the effort. We tried another direction change and only managed a few feet more in the process. Within sight of the truck, it seemed that we had reached an impasse with this half ton rock. Then I decided there was a reason I had recently purchased a 4-wheel drive Toyota Tundra... I wish I had pictures of this next escapade, it would have made a great commercial for Toyota!
Over brush, stumps, logs and logging debris, the Toyota walked right to the spot with no problem. I turned around and backed up to within reach of the cable and David and Fritz hooked me up. I lined up with the only somewhat clear route to the logging road and in 4-low headed for it. At one point the path narrowed down and forced me to partially climb a log while the pet wood log decided to go right around the end of a log on the right side. At this point, it was trying to pull the truck to the downhill side on the right while gathering debris along the way. Eventually, after two brush piles were gathered along the way, I finally cleared the road and had the log in a position to be able to back the trailer ramp up to it and roll it up onto the trailer. Job well done!
After this team effort and a short break, we went right back to the hunt. Brandon went to explore more creek areas while Fritz and David went separate directions, and I headed into the devastated wasteland that once was a pine forest to look for more large pieces of petrified wood.
A while passed and Brandon came hustling around to show me a piece of palm he had found in one of the creeks. This got Fritz and David fired up, So I let David take the Polaris, with Fritz in tow, to follow Brandon to the particular spot on the creek where he had located lots of pet wood. I spent a few minutes arranging the trailer before finally following along on foot. I found quite an interesting place when I got to where they were collecting in the creek. There were small pieces of pet wood everywhere. The creek bottom seemed to be all petrified wood here. They were concentrating on looking for palm wood, and since I have plenty of the smaller pieces of wood, I left it the way I found it, with thousands of pieces of pet wood littering the bottom of the streambed!
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VIRGIL G. RICHARDS