In the Robledo Mountains

just east of Las Cruces, New Mexico, lies a magnificent fossil site -- over forty layers of pristine Permian-era mudflat deposits containing trackways from over 1000 species -- a living snapshot of Earth's first land animals as they roamed over a wet beach 50 million years before the dawn of dinosaurs.  Amazingly, many of these fossil footprints sites were quarried and built into taco stands, homes and fireplaces in Las Cruces without ever being recognized -- until they crossed the path of one man of amazing determination.  Jerry MacDonald spent over 10 years searching out, and cataloging fossil footprints in what has been called one of the biggest single-handed rock excavations ever made.  But that task would be easy compared to the struggle of convincing skeptics the trackways were real, and finally gaining government protection for this precious porthole into the past.   By the time he was finished, MacDonald would be credited with discovering and preserving one of the finest known array of Permian era trackways on Earth.   His experiences are recorded in the book "Earth's First Steps," 1994, Johnson Printing, Boulder, Colorado.  (Now out of print.)

Tracking down MacDonald's "Discovery Site" required some detective work itself.   Below, you can see Dave examining the quarry as it appears today -- abandoned except for a collared lizard that watched us throughout our visit, alone guardian of his reptile heritage.  This site is now protected by state law, but many trackway sites remain undiscovered.

Also pictured are several track traces available at the site -- including this large print that might have been made by an edaphosaurus as he wandered up Camino Real over 280 million years ago.

(Click on the picture to enlarge it)

As we left the Robledo Mountains, our next stop would take us from the unfathomable reaches of the past to the threshold of the nuclear age -- the trinity site were the first nuclear bomb was detonated.

Click to see The Trinity Site ---> 
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