WAGON TRAIN RETRACES THE CALIFORNIA TRAIL 04/22/99 In 1849, thousands of hearty souls set out westward, heading for California and the hint of "hitting it big" in the newly-discovered gold fields there. Now, another group of adventurers is setting out, hoping to retrace the steps of the original '49ers, on the California National Historical Trail Wagon Train. "This is the 150th anniversary of the California Trail," said trail boss Donny Marincic of Sidney. "This really brings attention to the trail and what happened there all those years ago." The California National Historical Trail Wagon Train plans to leave St. Joseph, Mo., on April 26. According to the schedule, the wagon train should be in the Ash Hollow area in the Panhandle June 1, Marincic says. The train plans stops in Oshkosh, Lisco, Broadwater, Bridgeport, at Chimney Rock, Gering, Mitchell and Henry. They plan to cross into Wyoming sometime June 12. Residents of communities along the trail route can, and often do, visit the campsites and, for a nominal fee, share a meal with the trail riders, Marincic said. A few communities plan barbecues or other events to get riders and residents together. The original prospectors, infected with gold fever, followed along in the wagon wheels of predecessors on the Oregon and Mormon trails. Marincic and his partner, wagon master Ben Kern, formerly of the Bridgeport area, will be leading a different group beginning April 26 with a different purpose in mind. The federal Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service are sponsoring one wagon in the train, Marincic said. Their purpose is to chart the trail more exactly, gather information and determine how to preserve the trail for future generations. For the others Marincic anticipates about 10 wagon drivers will pay the $3,500 fee for the entire five-month trip the reasons are as varied as their backgrounds. "We've got a couple of outfits coming along, they're both retired," he says. "It's something to do over the summer. "We'll also have a lot of people who'll come and go. They can't spend a whole summer. People who'll ride for a week or so (during their vacation) and then go back to work." Marincic and Kern were both involved in the recreations of the Mormon and Oregon trails that passed through in recent years, Marincic said, but only as participants. This year, they are organizing everything. "We've been going hard for about the last three months," he says, noting that was "kind of a late start. We're getting the trail all lined out and identifying camp sites, things like that." Finding a route that is both passable and as close to the original trail as possible has been a challenge. The gold hunters followed approximately the route of the Oregon Trail, Marincic said. But most of the original trail has been taken over and covered up by human development. "You want to stay as close to the trail as you can, but we're still going to miss it a little bit," he says. "In Nebraska, for example, everything is laid out just about square. We need to find the best jogs to make it the shortest route we can." The wagon train will attempt to keep to lesser-traveled county gravel roads whenever possible, Marincic says, to avoid traffic. Passing motorists are only a problem for the first few days, he says, until the horses get used to the vehicles. But it's best not to take any chances. The wagon train touches a piece of something in just about everyone, he saud. That, more than anything else, will bring people on the ride and also get people out to watch them travel past. "It seems there's been a lot of interest in the trail history the past couple of years," Marincic says. "I'm not really sure why. But it's just amazing the number of people interested in wagon training and interested in these trails. People from all over."

DINO DIGGER MAKES UP FOR LOST ALLOSAURUS SKELETON WITH SECOND FIND 04/22/99 When Kirby Siber's digging crew in 1991 discovered the most complete skeleton ever of the meat-eating dinosaur Allosaurus, he recognized it immediately as the greatest find of his career. Within days, however, federal officials realized that Siber, a commercial fossil digger and director of a private dinosaur museum in Switzerland, had strayed onto public land where he was not allowed to dig. The government promptly took over the site north of Shell, and asked the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Mont., to excavate the Jurassic beast, named "Big Al." "When Big Al One was taken from us, I felt very sad," Siber said. "I had lost the specimen that was by far the best fossil I'd ever found." With a new understanding of the property lines, though, Siber kept probing nearby private land where he had permission to dig. And in 1996, he and his crew uncovered a new dinosaur that has now replaced Big Al as the greatest find of his career: a second Allosaurus, even more complete than the first, that Siber has named "Big Al Two." Stretching nearly 25 feet from head to tail, the skeleton is even more complete than the first Allosaurus and dates to the Jurassic Period, about 147 million years ago. Allosaurus was the most formidable Jurassic predator and a forerunner of Tyrannosaurus rex, but complete allosaur skeletons are exceedingly rare. Siber's team also found a span of the dinosaur's skin _ the first allosaur skin known _ and evidence of the dinosaur's diet in its stomach. Big Al Two bears broken and healed ribs, neck vertebrae and other bones that suggest it was an aggressive fighting and hunting animal that had run-ins with competitors or unyielding prey. The discovery marks a new high point in the rich legacy of fossil collecting in Northern Wyoming's Bighorn Basin. Siber and his team found both of the flesh-ripping allosaurs in an area known collectively as the Howe Ranch, within a short walk of where legendary bone hunter Barnum Brown in 1934 unearthed a vast dinosaur graveyard that made national headlines. Now the site has become an even more impressive Jurassic zoo, with allosaurs, stegosaurs and other big plant-eaters emerging from the ground. "We are seeing that this is really a world-class locality almost without equal," said Gary Johnson, a professor of geology at Dartmouth College who studies fossil deposits in the Bighorn Basin and has visited Siber's Big Al Two dig site. "As far as a sampling of the environment of the Jurassic, it's really as good as one could hope to imagine." The skeleton of Big Al Two, now fully excavated and cleaned, went on display in March at a natural history museum in Neuchatel, Switzerland, that helped fund the hundreds of hours of work necessary to prepare it for display. After a year on display there, it will return to Siber's popular dinosaur museum in Aathal, Switzerland, for permanent exhibition. He plans to sell and trade casts of the allosaur that may eventually find their way back to the United States. Although Siber still stings from critical remarks by academic paleontologists after his discovery of the first allosaur in 1991, he said his excavation of Big Al Two on private land illustrates the growing role of private museums. Many public museums and universities no longer have the money to finance major fossil digs and private enterprise is now stepping in to fill that gap, he said. An example is the privately funded and popular Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis. "The private sector is expanding and will open up a lot of new museums," Siber said. "Extraction, preparation and interpretation of the science will largely be done by self-employed people that can give the public interesting and attractive displays." "He has worked hard and I think it's great that he's had the success he has," said Brent Breithaupt of the University of Wyoming. "He is adding to the knowledge of dinosaurs in Wyoming and I have no ill feelings over that." Even paleontologists known for their criticism of commercial fossil-digging praised Siber's newest discovery. Siber has been digging in the Bighorn Basin since 1989. After losing Big Al One, Siber's team uncovered a big vegetarian dinosaur called Camarasaurus in 1993. "Then we started realizing there were parts of other dinosaurs," he said. "We've been digging in this same place ever since." It turned out to be probably the most productive dig site of all, especially when it comes to "articulated" dinosaur skeletons with nearly all their bones in place, a kind of Holy Grail of paleontology. One of those dinosaurs was Allosaurus: Diggers actually found the jaw of Big Al Two in 1993, but could not locate any more of the skeleton. Then they found and turned their attention to other dinosaurs, including Apatosaurus, a lumbering plant-eater. On the last day of the 1995 dig season, Siber and his daughter were alone, packaging the stegosaur's hip when they found an allosaur femur and, within about two more hours, a lower leg and tail. Then they had to leave. "All winter, I thought about it," he recalled. "I thought, `This is going to be great."' In 1996, Siber and his team uncovered the allosaur they named Big Al Two, along with a Stegosaurus. It soon became clear that the meat-eating allosaur and plant-eating stegosaur, classic enemies of the Jurassic, lay nearly on top of each other. The two dinosaurs did not fully emerge from the ground until 1997. Besides the allosaur and stegosaur, the team has excavated the remains of five different skeletons of the giant plant-eater Diplodocus, a Camarasaurus and two smaller, two-legged dinosaurs: Dryosaurus and Othnielia. Big Al Two rested in the earth about six to 10 feet lower than Big Al and is probably slightly older than the first allosaur, which was uncovered about a half-mile away. Siber believes the site has not yet given up all its prehistoric secrets. He figures his teams will be digging another five to 10 years. "Losing Big Al was a setback at the time, but looking back, it was a temporary setback, and what we found after that more than made up for what we lost," he said.,1249,80000824,00.html? Faced with economic depression, political instability and technological advances, many Navajos are turning for guidance to their traditions and culture. But in this case, the assertion of tradition and the cultural reverence for animals have combined to put the future of the 36-year-old zoo in doubt. "It's a culture shock that we're experiencing," said Harry Walters, a Navajo who is an anthropologist and the chairman of the Center for Dineh Studies at Dineh Community College, about 50 miles north of Window Rock. The controversy comes at a difficult time for the Navajo Nation. Last year, the tribe had four presidents, including two who resigned because of financial questions. Begaye has characterized economic conditions on the 27,000-square-mile reservation, the biggest in the United States, as worse now than during the Great Depression. Unemployment stands at 46 percent, per capita income is $5,600, and the reservation's poverty rate is 56 percent. Revenue from natural resource development last year dropped by 25 percent. That the zoo's animals have become caught up in the tribe's stresses is not surprising. "There has been a very strong feeling among many Native American tribes that archaeologists' treatment of their ancestors was basically wrong," said Sam Ball, a Park Service archaeologist. "Because they were Native American and not European, their ancestors were taken out of the ground, placed in museums and studied in ways they felt were disrespectful." Nine Marquette University students spent a sun-drenched Saturday on an archaeological excavation in the zoo's animal cemetery. "This is a great opportunity for practical experience in a no-fault setting," said Jane D. Peterson, assistant professor of social and cultural sciences. "Then, too, there's the advantage that we know they're going to find something. That's not always the case in the field."