Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dinosaurs, Fossils, and Colorado, Oh my!

So, the question in the last post was, what happens when you load us all up in our car on the way home form camping, and my husband I and get an itch to see dinos? Well, if you know Mr. C and me, you probably can figure out that the natural answer is you flip a u-turn and head to Colorado (well, right on the Utah Colorado boarder) to see Dinosaur National Monument.

Extra day of camping an another 200 miles? Sure, why not! Kids (and their grown ups) are only little once after all.

After doing some quick look ups on the ol' blackberry, while we drove, Mr. C and I mapped out our next leg of the great adventure. first it was back through Moab to some random place along the Colorado River to see Ancient Pictographs. FP was super excited since he learned about hieroglyphs in school this last year, and found them to be very much the same.

And then it was time to take a random cute picture of Goob!

Further down the road was spot where a large slat of rock had fallen that had many impressions of dinosaur foot prints. You can see the two they painted white to make it easy to see, but there was probably about 20 on that slab of rock alone.

FP touching his first ever dino fossil (trace fossil, he learned it was called later)

A note: These prints are not easily accessed if you have small kids. Thankfully there was a woman and her daughter there at the same time as we were because it was very slipper to climb to the slab, and involved their kindness of helping us climb to various place and then hand the boys off to each other, to get up and down. I think without their help, we'd have had one of the boys (or us holding one of them) fall. It is do able, but probably best to take up one kid at a time, and have two adults to help them along.

The slab is right above that big out cropping midway up, to give you reference.

After checking out the dino prints we hopped in the car and drove. I have to laugh because the quickest way to get to Dinosaur National Monument is to drive all the way out of Utah, through Colorado, and then back into Utah again. It sits right on the boarder, and spans both states, but all of the actual dinosaur stuff is on the Utah side. So we drove to Colorado and had a great time stopping in a town called Dinosaur, Colorado.

Hanging out with Sheepies favourite dino, the tricerotops, at this neat park where we stopped for lunch, and to let the kids play.

And then we arrived!

By the time we got there it was pretty late, so we found the camp grounds that are in the monument, and set up camp. It was a completely different feeling than camping in Moab, and I have to say it was a bit crazy. You know how you go camping, and there is always that one family that just is annoying somewhere in the camp grounds? We were that family! The place was packed so there were people everywhere. And despite the fact that there were kids everywhere, it was so quiet. Most of the families seemed to only have 1 or 2 kids, and they were so subdued I'm not really sure if it was not some strange twilight zone episode or something. However, we arrive, our kids full of hours of pent up energy. They are used to being about to run around the other camp site and be as loud and wild as they wanted. So that is what they do here, in our tiny site. Didn't go over well. Then after we finally got them to all settle a bit and eat, to keep them quiet we loaded them into the tent and read many many chapters of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was our current bed time book. Thankfully, they did eventually quiet down, but the next morning were up bright and early and again were super loud as the entire campsite seemed to sleep in until noon. Figuratively of course, but still. I was not sad to leave that camp site, and the icing on the cake was that the night before I put the rain fly to the tent on a near by stump so that the boys could see the stars as the slept. Packing up, we discovered the stump was the home of a huge ant colony, and they were ALL over the rain fly. We had to shake it out, which, if you know me and my straight up phobia of ant, is amazing. Yup, not sad to leave that camp site at all.

Especially because in leaving it mean seeing Dinosaur bones! Disclaimer: this is the part of the post were I turn into a 7 year old geek child and ramble excitedly about all the dinosaur stuff we saw.

You see, for as long as I could remember know what a Dinosaur was, I knew I wanted, and dreamed of being a Paleontologist. It was that one job for me. You know the one; where you dream about it your whole life, and tell everyone you're going to be, when they ask you as a kid. Even today, if I were willing to live in a place with my family that would facility may being so, and I didn't want to stay home with my kids, I think I'd get my PhD in Paleontology and go dig up bones for a living. So I'm honestly not sure who was more excited when we explored the monument, the kids, or me. Truthfully, based on how dorky my husband said I was going on and on about the bones and such, it was probably me.

Now don't freak out or anything, but this is us touching real fossils. And not just silly little fragments left after they got the good stuff, these are hard core full on bones. The smart man who founded the place, thought it would be neat to leave parts of the site open to natural erosion to that the bones would be in their natural state for people to see. BRILLIANT!

This one is super cool. Can you see, starting right by Mr. C's finger and going up the rock where the end of a bone is stating to become exposed?

And this one is awesome. Though it's hard to see, the whole kind of raised circular part of the rock that FP's leaning on is the vertebrae of a medium sized juvenile sauropod (four legged walker). That piece bigger than his head is JUST one piece of the things spine! I told you... I kind of nerded out a bit over this stuff.

This is them touching the end of a juvenile femur bone. Again of a sauropod.

And then, in a moment of true and ultimate awesomeness for me. I touched a real life, not in some museum, but in the side of the freaking mountain still stegosaurus bone. I wanted to rip it out of the rock right there and hold it in my hands. It is a dino geeks dreams come true.

Then it was off to the visitor's center.

This picture cracks me up. FP learned about this book and the author in school this last year, and practically had a heart attack when he saw it in the visitor center store. Look at that face.

One of the last things we did before heading home was having the boys sworn in as official Junior Park Rangers and Junior Paleontologist. They had little workbooks for each that they had to fill out around the park. When they were done, they could return them and the rangers would go over all the answers with them. They would then be sworn in and receive their badges and certificates.

The boys would not stop talking about it forever, and still wear their badges every chance they get. It is too funny!

After the Monument, we hurried to Vernal, in Utah to check out the Utah Field House of Natural History. It was quick trip since they were closing in 45 minutes but we managed to see pretty much everything that their attention spans would allow.

As the sun set on your adventure, a car full of happy, filthy little boys passed out and we drove happily home to Salt Lake.

If you are ever in the market for an adventure your family will never forget, carve a week out of your schedule, and check out Moab and Dinosaur National Monument. You won't regret it.

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