Monday, May 23, 2016

Dinosaur National Monument Field Trip

In all my years living in Utah, I've never been to Dinosaur National Monument before! We almost didn't go this time, because it's not really on the way to…anywhere, and Sam was going to be out of town on the only weekend we had free, so I wasn't sure I wanted to drive the six hours round trip by myself! But this is a place where Homeschooling has been so good for me. Normally, I very much like staying home where it's cozy. It takes a great act of will for me to decide to get us ALL out of the house. But for some reason, when I am thinking of myself as a teacher instead of a mom, my willingness level goes up. I think to myself, "This would be the greatest field trip to teach this concept…how can I deprive my students of that chance?" :) 

So, we packed up lots of celery and almonds and apple chips (to keep me awake…my jaw ached for the whole weekend afterwards, but at least I didn't fall asleep!) and a picnic for lunch, and headed off early in the morning toward Vernal.
The drive was extra beautiful. The mountains were at their greenest and everything was glowing in the sun. Don't worry, I had my trusty assistant Abe take these pictures while we drove.
At the quarry there's a huge wall of fossils they've preserved just as they were found in the ground. It's completely covered with bones! You can touch the actual dinosaur bones in the wall. That was really cool.
There's a cute little museum with allosaurus skeletons and such. I heard somewhere that there are so many allosaurus bones in Utah, paleontologists don't even bother to collect them anymore!
The tram ride from the visitor's center up to the quarry was a big hit—so much so that we rode it up and back three times. :)
It even coaxed a smile from Mr. Grump.
I liked the dinosaur bones, of course, but my favorite thing about Dinosaur National Monument was the scenery! I didn't know there was so much cool geologic stuff to see! You can read more about it here—this whole area was a huge bed of sediments nine miles (!!) deep. Then the uplift of the Rocky Mountains, and the downcutting of the Green River, exposed those layers until you can now see more than 20 geologic as you go down the river! It's pretty amazing (and of course we couldn't see everything from the little driving around we did—you'd have to float down the river). The layer the dinosaur bones are in, the Morrison Formation, is just one of the many layers, and a relatively young one at that. There are much older rocks exposed in other layers!

This book is another great one for talking about what geologic features you can see in Dinosaur National Monument, and along the way.
Cactus rose. I told you everything was green and blooming!
The weather was awesome. We could see a rainstorm blowing in over the east mountains while we ate our picnic. It started raining just as we finished and threw away our last garbage bag!
Goldie was very excited to run through the rain :)
There are some cool petroglyphs in the area, just a little way off the road.
I love these strange, colorful formations!
There's a Natural History Museum in Vernal that we stopped at too. It's a fun museum, with activity areas for the kids and a dinosaur sculpture garden outside. 
We all tried to get Goldie to stand by this mammoth, since she loves elephants, but he made her quite nervous.
We especially liked the variety of fossils, and the huge chart along one wall showing all the geologic layers and how they were. 
And the enormous diplodocus skeleton in the lobby, of course.
The whole area around Dinosaur National Monument is really beautiful. There were a few farms on top of a plateau that overlooked the park. I can't imagine what it would be like to step outside every day and see this view:
What an amazing place! I'm so glad we live (fairly) close by!

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