This posting will be in three parts: “On The Way In,” and “At the Quarry” and “Out On My Own (with Noah’s Flood).
1. ON THE WAY IN
In the last two postings I already described being lost on narrow switchback roads with no markings or signs, but in some of the most beautiful mountain-and-valley scenery I’d ever been a part of. As I left the Flaming Gorge area, the map indicated that I’d be traveling through a few little towns to get to dinosaur territory.
The towns were very little! Most with “no markings” either. I stopped in a friendly place called “Vernal” (according to my reading of the map) to ask for directions to the dinosaur quarry, only to be told ,”Oh, yes, you go that way for a few miles to the town of Vernal, and when you come to a gas station and another building, there’ll be a road that cuts between them. Take that road. There might be a sign.”
Now the roads and the towns weren’t labeled, but the hillsides were. There were signs on the hillsides telling me the names of the Formation that created the big hills, how many million of years old they were, and that they were made of “ancient sand dunes” and “bizarre sharks” and reptiles and ancient marine life.
And along the way, I stopped at this sign, which added a little drama to my day’s plans:
Well, I probably found Vernal and I did see a sign to the Visitors Center for the dinosaurs. I was no longer lost. There were “dinosaurs” everywhere. I got out and looked at one, just to feel the size.
I parked near the dinosaur and went into the Visitor Center, where I learned there were no actual dinosaur bones there, but lots of interesting and “must-have” souvenirs. I now own a genuine replica of a Raptor Claw!
Couldn’t pass that up! And another souvenir travel magnet for my refrigerator. (And one for grandson Cooper)
There was one ancient display we were encouraged to touch: a two-billion year old rock. “Hoaky” you think? I sort of did too, at first, but I bent down to touch it anyway, and it was good, a good thing to do….
I’m here to experience something and to learn and to expand my mind. There is no learning without humility – even if you have to be humble to hoaky things. Like a child, staring for hours at pictures of what dinosaurs could have looked like, and imagining a world full of them.
But now I came to see the dinosaur bones that were being excavated. I had heard they were still there, in situ, sticking out of the rocks. That’s what I wanted to see. And they weren’t at the Visitor Center, they were “deeper” into dinsoaur country. How deep? We had to board a shuttle to get there:
Very comfortable and exciting to anticipate where we were going. It was a good start to my imagination. Especially when I saw the Electric Gates we had to pass through. Remember those big imposing gates in Jurassic Park? Whew! The Real Thing coming up!
The first thing we saw sticking out of the rocky hillside was a big glass building. Once inside, I could tell that one of its walls was the actual digging site used by the paleontologists when they made their discoveries.
2. AT THE QUARRY
Same rock wall, inside and looking outside:
There were friendly guides that seemed to love being there and to love their jobs. I think they genuinely loved dinosaurs, like many of us do. I was able to share two of my favorite dinosaur books with one young lady: Raptor Red and West of Eden. (The latter being a book that explored the premise: What if the dinosaurs hadn’t become extinct and they had 65,000,000 to evolve – just how intelligent would they have become? just how dominant would they have become over all the earth?)
Right now we were looking at a lot of dead dinosaurs, bones from all kinds, smashed against a box canyon many millions of years ago in a massive flood. The “official” explanation that you’re supposed to know is that there was a big sandbar in a big river, and after years of drought many dinosaurs began to die and their bodies got stuck along the sandbar; and then a great local flood (climate change, I guess) killed and washed away many other dinosaurs and — here they are! (Hmmmm.)
Thankfully, we were invited to touch some of the bones.
For perspective (my hand included):
Well, you get the idea. Lest this become too long, I’m going to stop here and continue on with the last part in the next posting.