ESCALANTE

 

Words By Peter Miller

“The Miller brothers looked more like prospectors than paleobotanists. Their beards were caked with dirt; goggles kept their eyes from being sandblasted by the desert winds. Both were big men, more than six feet three, and on a knife-edged ridge in southern Utah they moved with the quiet confidence of outdoorsmen. As Ian swung a pickax into the mudstone, Dane attempted to roll a cigarette between gusts. Loose tobacco flew from the paper. “Doggone it,” he said, and tried again.

Along with Scott Sampson, chief curator at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and Joe Sertich, the museum’s dinosaur paleontologist, the brothers were prospecting for fossils last spring in the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument. Within that largely roadless wilderness they were exploring a particularly remote area, a maze of steep bluffs and gullies north of Horse Mountain. While the rest of their team was a few miles away, working fossil quarries discovered in previous years, Sampson, Sertich, and the Millers were looking for new ones. After months of office duty at the museum Sampson could barely contain his joy at being “where no paleontologist has ever been before”—with the prospect of discovering new treasure from the “lost continent” of Laramidia.”

Read the entire article for National Geographic Magazine