"Lo, Children Are An Heritage of the LORD: and the Fruit of the Womb is His Reward" - Psalm 127:3

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fossil Butte National Monument Field Trip

 Saturday, we took a day trip over to Fossil Butte National Monument near Kemmerer, Wyoming.  (the final "er" is silent.)  Kemmerer is the home of the very first JC Penney store, which they still have open, along with a museum.  I forgot the baby's coat, so we figured we would stop and pick one up.  Now Kemmerer only has about 2,600 people in it, and it's far away from anywhere bigger so there aren't a lot of stores.  Anyway, we tried Alco first because we were having lunch right near there at Arctic Circle (where the kids are playing in these first three pictures), but Alco didn't have any kids coats out yet.  I couldn't believe that.  This is Wyoming and October begins on Monday!  We often have snow by the first of October.  We did last year.  So we stopped at JC Penney and they didn't have any coats either!  Unbelievable.  So we made due with his blankets.

By the way, the three year old was very proud of himself for going down that slide on his own :)  Bravery is something that we're really working on.  Baby steps, right?

 The baby was able to climb up on the end of the slide too, because it was low enough on the end.  He thought he was pretty big stuff.  I love the fish on this playground.  When you walk over that bridge section, it looks like a fish skeleton and you can see to the floor below (so of course the three year old wasn't into crossing it).  Problem was, it was filthy.  The whole place was.

 Then we headed out to the Fossil Butte visitor's center.  They have a Junior Ranger program where kids get a book and have to search around for the answers and fill in the book, then earn a badge.  Our eight year old really enjoyed that.

This was a fun hands-on area for the kids.  The walls are flannel and they have pillow fish fossil shapes with velcro on them so you can build your own fossils.

Here is a huge piece of rock - probably more than 5-6 feet long, with tons of little fish fossils.

All these fossils were found in the area of Fossil Lake - where the monuement is.  This display case had several turtle fossils.

My favorite was this tiny one - about the size of the baby's hand.

Several snake fossils were really well preserved.  I guess it never occurred to me how many ribs these creatures have.

Surprised to see alligators in Wyoming?  This one was small.

This crocodile, on the other hand, was huge - 13 feet long.

His head is about as big as our four hear old!

Of course there were a ton of fish fossils.

This is a freshwater stingray.

Doesn't this one just look mean?  With ribs that big, this must have been a big, fat fish.

The scales were very clear on this gar.

And how about these birds?

In one room, there were different displays in cases, as well as along one entire wall.

The eight year old was diligent to hunt for all the answers for his book.

I have to admit I never even dreamed there could be a fossil of a spider - and a tiny one at that.  This spider was no bigger than a dime.  I thought they would be too delicate.  But I guess nothing is.  They had fossils of feathers too.

This damsel fly is so pretty - just like it was preserved on purpose.

Here's a better look at what the 8 year old had to do.  One of the pages had a scavenger hunt - where they printed pictures of fossils that could be found in the displays and he had to find the names for all of them.

Here is a freshwater shrimp.  It made me think of my cajun brother in law :)

And here is a crayfish, just for him ;)  They had several places where magnifying glasses were attached to the underside of the display glass so you could get a closer view of the fossils.

This wall was amazing - probably 15 feet long or so.  It had palm fronds at each end and all sorts of plant life in the middle.

The three year old liked this part a lot because he could see so many of the fossils close up.  I had to lift him for several of the other display cases.

These are all leaves.

And these were cuts from the rocks to show the different strata.

Now, as for all the conclusions they come to on how this all occurred, I will emphatically say we don't believe in evolution.  At all.  There is a much simpler explanation for how all these animals and plants managed to all die at once in this one particular area.  A massive flood would have washed all the dead animals into one region and quickly buried them in a heavy layer of mud, preserving them whole.  There are fossils in which the animals (fish mostly) are in the process of eating - swallowing or digesting other fish.  How does a fish suddenly die while in mid-bite other than through a catastrophic event.  This board showed that there must have been a catastrophe.

But still tried to explain it away as anything other than a world-wide flood as described in the Bible.

They did give a little nod to the possibility of a flood though.

The visitors center had other fun things for kids to do - like fossil rubbings - which actually amounted to rubbing a plate embossed with a fossil shape.  They also have the stamps you can get for the national parks passport.  We decided rather than buying a passport, we would create our own notebook of places visited.  So we stamped several images on pieces of cash register tape they provided and brought that home instead.

At the end of the visit, the eight year old had finished his activities required to be a junior ranger and was awarded his badge.  They engraved on the back of the badge a number.  He is Jr. Ranger 10,775 (which seems like a huge number to me :)  They even did a swearing-in ceremony with him, and spent a lot of time just visiting with us.

He made sure to prominently wear the badge for the rest of the visit.  When we went on our hike, he had to move it to his coat so it would still be visible.

There were two different walking trails we could take, as part of the park.  We chose the Chicken Creek Nature Trail.  See the map?  It should say that it literally goes UP like that.  We thought we were going on a leisurely trail hike.  Ha.  Not so much.  It wasn't bad though - just a lot for the three year old.

The first part of the trail starts out with a handicap accessible walkway, which leads to a picnic area with a gazebo.

Then you start to climb.

We had the baby in the stroller to start with.  One of the trails said it followed an old road.  It clearly must have been the other trail ;)  It quickly became obvious that the stroller wasn't going to make it up this trail.  So my husband took it back to the car and we put the baby in a backpack frame.

He thought that was much more fun anyway.  He jumped, and bounced, and made car noises.  He had lots to play with too - sunglasses, a hair clip, and "ear handles" to hang onto. lol  We had fun anyway.  The frame and the baby together must be close to 20 pounds - maybe a little more.  By the time we got to the top, I was definitely feeling the extra weight.  I just can't fathom that I was carrying that much more, plus another 50+ pounds - a big sack of potatoes - and was still able to move.  I didn't realize how hard it was on me until it was gone.

Of course the three year old found a stick right away.

And of course he used it as a gun :) as he always does.

The eight year old found a bunch of snail shells.

The view along the way is very nice.  The higher up you go the more mountains you see.  You can see for miles and miles from the top.  It was late afternoon/early evening when we took our hike.

I love this shadow picture.  It's me, with the baby in backpack frame and the three year old holding my hand as we hiked.  Such a great Mama picture.  I love being a Mama!

Daddy had his hands full coaxing the (sometimes obstinate) three year old up the mountain side... especially when it started getting steep.

The sign at the trailhead specifically said not to remove anything, so the eight year old was constantly bringing things to show me.  I took a picture, and we left it all behind ... except for this piece of pie shaped rock which managed to come home with us.

There were benches here and there on the trail which made a nice place to rest along the way.  The eight year old thinks he's invisible in this shot.  He got it in his head about this time that he didn't want to be in the pictures.  He got over that about 200 yards down the trail, and seemed to forget all about it.

The trail at times was in the open sagebrush, and other times wound through trees.  I loved being in the trees :)

It's hard to tell in this picture, but those logs are like stairs - the path goes straight up like a staircase.  I'm at the top and the three year old and Dad are about to head up.

A little farther around the bend and the stairs were formed out of rock ... and steeper and more of them.  The path is cut in switch-backs here.

See how the trail makes a turn?  The boys rested on a rock before the final climb.

Right behind where the boys were sitting is a wash filled with all these rock pieces.  The eight year old had to look for fossils (even though I'm sure they've been thoroughly searched many times before).

The three year old finally gave out within 100 yards of the summit.  If you look closely in the left side of the picture, you can barely make out the parking lot.  It is WAY down there.

We made it to the top and I unloaded my pack for a few minutes.  My little traveler thought this was loads of fun.  Since we were missing his jacket, I just wrapped that blanket around the frame.  When I walked, I either tied the ends at my neck or pulled them around with my hands like a cape and kept us both warm.  It was getting on into evening by the time we made it to the top, so it was chilly.  We didn't sit at the top very long.

Everyone enjoyed the view and the rest area at the top.

The three year old was feeling a little independent, and had to have a bench of his own.  After getting Dad to give in an carry him that last little bit, he wasn't going to walk if he didn't have to.  He managed to manipulate his way into being carried most of the way down.  Granted, I'm sure he was tired.  It was quite a hike.

So then we started our descent.  The eight year old ran ahead of us most of the way and beat us to the car by quite a bit.

It was just as steep going down as it had been coming up.  The trail makes a loop though, so we went down a different way than we had come up.

See?  No walking.  Not even downhill.

So pretty going through the trees... and the perfect time of year to make this hike.

Looks like he's ready to climb out, doesn't it?  We were actually sitting on a bench, so he had the ability to climb. :)

Bailing out... or trying to anyway.

Love this picture of me and all the chaos in my life :)  SO rewarding!

Doesn't this look just say, "HA! Got my way!"  He was clinging extra hard here because Dad told him that when we got to the road in just a few steps, he was going to have to walk to the car (about 50 yards).

We made it back to the car a couple hours later.  See the white cliffs up there - yes - at the TOP.  That's where we hiked to.  About straight up from the hinge of the passenger door.

By the time we loaded up, the sun was setting.  We met some people in the parking lot who said the night before they had seen 300 head of elk in the valley, so we were keeping our eyes open for them.  The lady ranger at the visitors center had said she saw them running over a ridge earlier that morning, so we knew we had a good chance of spotting them.

Sure enough, we were able to find them.  My husband had his binoculars with him, so we were able to get a good view of them.  They were way over on that ridge on the right - about halfway up this picture on the far right.

Surprisingly my camera was able to zoom in to them pretty well.  Then when I zoomed in farther on the computer, it showed them pretty well.  There are about 30 in this group, which was just one little bunch of them.

They were scattered all over the place - in the valley and up all the draws.  And it's hunting season here, but there's no hunting allowed in this park.  Seems like they must know that...

The sunset was beautiful as we drove away.
And the moon was full and bright enough that we could see well all the way home.  It was a great family day :)