Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Retroactive Travel Post - Day 12 - Bryce Canyon

We couldn't seem to get out of our campsite soon enough. That whacky camp manager wouldn't leave us alone, and every time I heard that golf cart in the distance, it filled my heart with dread as I knew the guy was going to stop by. At one point, he opened the hood of the rental car to see what kind of engine it had. I'm telling you, that guy was a little off. When you talked to him you could tell there was something misfiring a little upstairs. Maybe he got kicked in the head by a cow on the farm growing up. And to top it off, he was boasting incessantly about his wife, whom he married when she was 17. Too much information for a guy who is supposed to collect our camping fee and leave it at that. I was tempted to complain to the park service.

We got out of there and headed for Bryce Canyon, but it was quite a trek. Realizing that we were subjecting the kids to an enormous amount of driving, R decided to take a detour and check out Dinosaur National Park. Kids love dinosaurs, right? Well, sort of. They love to see big reptiles with sharp teeth and massive tails, but in reality, those are simply dramatic representations of what they believe they looked like. To really appreciate the study of dinosaurs, and for any fossil for that matter, you have to have a passion for the minutiae of it all.

Paleontology is hard, tedious work, and the general public's impression of it is largely based on Hollywood and the dramatic final product of scientist's hard work. I learned this first hand when I worked at the Museum of Natural History in NYC and got to actually go on a fossil dig. I was really excited, but after taking part in the actual hands-on work, which entailed a lot of time on your hands and knees sifting through sand and stone for tiny pieces of bone that looked like dirt, I got over it immediately. The whole field is glamorized by the likes of Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park, but in reality, the work was pretty dull. It doesn't help that I'm a whiny baby who also contracted some killer eczema from the stinging nettles that were everywhere.

Anyway, I'm not sure what the kids were expecting, but I had a feeling it might not have been what we saw. Dinosaur National Park is situated deep in the Utah desert, literally in the middle of nowhere. It is apparently a fairly significant quarry, and you get to get up close and personal with the fossils, which for the untrained eye, look just like rocks. In fact, under ordinary circumstances, we would have walked right by them.

There is a short trail you can walk along, where they highlight some of the bones, and best of all, A&N got to become junior rangers/paleontologists. I shouldn't knock it, they had fun and got a huge kick out of getting their badges. The problem was the side trip took way longer than we'd anticipated. What was supposed to be short one hour thing turned into almost four hours. Ouch!

We're glad we did it, it was fun, but now we had to make up for lost time and get to Bryce Canyon. We had a long way to go, and wanted to get there before dark so we could set up our camp.

Of course, we failed.

We did get to see the Big Rock Candy Mountain, which is actually yellow! I'm not sure if this is some sort of official thing, but it was pretty cool, it really looks like candy.

We hit Bryce Canyon pretty late, and then we had to find a campsite. According to the map, there are campsites all over the park, but we found out later that they are in fact off-trail and require hiking and serious gear. We weren't ready for that, so we pulled into the main grounds near the entrance and pitched out tent in the dark. We were beat, but it's always nice to reach your next "home" and rest your head on the ground.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

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