The first thing we saw, though, was not a dinosaur bone--it was a snake! The three little boys and I were walking around a dinosaur statue outside while everyone else went ahead. We were all quite surprised when a decent-sized snake slithered right in front of us to cross the path! I am afraid of everything, so we immediately turned around and walked quickly away. I don't think the snake even noticed us.
The second thing we saw were a tall pole and a medium sized pole that Lila was enamored with. She ran over and said, "Mommy baby! Awwwwwwwww!"
Asher's face is awesome. Why is he making that face? No one knows.
And then we were in the visitor's center! We got the info we needed, grabbed junior ranger booklets for the kids, then boarded a tram that was filled almost completely by us. The tram took us to a large building. As soon as we walked in, we were all in awe because right before us was a preserved hillside filled with piles and piles of dinosaur bones.
We learned that when the bones were originally excavated, the man who found the site petitioned to leave some of the bones in their original spot and create a place where people could come see dinosaur bones where they'd actually been found. And that is exactly what happened! Paleontologists chipped away the top layers of sand and rock to expose the bones, then left the bones in place. Because the bones were left in their natural environment, scientists today have been able to learn so much more than scientists at the time of the discovery could have learned--information using the pollen samples and dirt samples and rock samples that were still with the bones!
We also learned that this display has the largest number of different dinosaur species in one area anywhere in the world. Apparently, finding one or two species is common--but here there are 13 species of dinosaurs represented!
We were also happy to find that we could touch a few of the dinosaur bones in the lowest level! Hooray for touching. We happened to visit just in time for a junior ranger class about relative age dating. The kids listened to the ranger and helped him do relative age dating for life events, then filled out their packets and earned their first junior ranger badge! (Unfortunately, we didn't think about junior ranger badges at Mt. Timp and in Flaming Gorge. Oh well!)
After we were done inside the building, we had a little waiting to do for the tram. Unfortunately, Cole found a rather large muddy section to get muddy in while we waited! Mud was a common thread throughout this trip.
Lynnie and Nick decided to start the drive back to Grand Junction while our little family decided to buy the $1 self-guided tour map and drive another scenic loop. I am so glad we made this decision, because the drive was amazing! We got to get up close--like touching close--to the Green River, which was especially fun because we crossed that very river several times on our trip. We got to explore a cabin built by an amazing lady who sounds like she was super tough and who lived alone in the cabin for many years. We got to see the "elephant toes" and "turtle rock" formations. And, best of all, we got to hike to the most gigantic petroglyph we have ever seen! The petroglyph is a lizard and is a few feet long. Our handy guidebook taught us that the petroglyph would have likely taken a few months to complete and was interesting in that it showed that the people who lived there weren't only concerned with survival--they had time to create, too!
After our scenic drive, we decided it was time to press on to Grand Junction. Lynnie and Nick had texted us warning us that there was hardly anywhere to stop and eat and that they ran into some construction traffic--and that the road was super twisty, so to have a vomit catching receptacle ready for Lila. Following their advice, we stopped at a tiny little town called Rangely. There were only two restaurant options, and we wanted to be kind of fast, so we were just going to stop at the grocery store. Then we saw the prices at the grocery store (which were ridiculous) and that the whole deli/bakery was closed that day. Scratch that plan. We decided to try a restaurant--and proceeded to eat the best pizza of our lives. The pizza was Hawaiian and oh my gosh was it good!
With full bellies, we hopped into the car again. The drive was beautiful--the road ran through mountains and canyons with little streams and a few distant cabins. Everything was lovely until the sun went down and we got into the real twists and turns. Then the drive was kind of scary. Thankfully, though, Ryan is cool under pressure and got us to Grand Junction without incident.