Sunday, September 4, 2016

50 Million Year Old Fossils...and they're all mine!

I love seeing history in action. As a public school kid, I learned not to get too excited about learning. Just memorize the information so you can get the best grade, do NOT think about, do NOT get excited about it, do NOT question it. Learn it, take the test and move on. (And I was good at the game...I tested well, and then promptly forgot it all.)

It has taken me years to undo this. Actually it's taken years of homeschooling and 9 months of travel to realize that history is an amazing, exciting and very real thing. I have never enjoyed museums and battlefields as much as I have this year. (Thankfully, that seems to be true for my kids too!)

As we were hoofing it across the country to get to Oregon in time for Laurel's birthday, we didn't really have a lot of time to stop and look at things. We did decide to stop for two days in Wyoming; we spent one day at Fort Bridger, and the second day at Fossil Butte National Park and Warfield Fossil Safari.

Fort Bridger was a surprising distraction for us, we spent most of the day there. We toured the buildings, and spent longer than probably necessary in the museum. What can I say...we love documentaries, and they would just keep putting on a new one if you asked. (We connected the dots later that the song The Story of Jim Bridger was the SAME guy that founded Fort Bridger!)

The next day we set off to look for fossils at the Warfield Fossil Safari, not knowing what (if anything) we would find. First we started off at Fossil Butte National Monument to learn some history...what an amazing place! Beautiful, filled with really gave a timeline to all of the changes in life and geology that has happened over the millions of years. We saw amazing fossils, cool documentaries and got to watch a ranger actually cleaning and finishing a fossil that was pulled out of the ground there.

Onto Warfield, we drove and drove, not knowing where we were going (the GPS knew even less than us!). When we got there we were faced with looming cliffs, and handed a hammer and a chisel. George, the manager at Warfield was so helpful, showing us where to pull out rock, and how to chisel it open to find fossils. We hammered and climbed and carried...and with a little patience we all found 50 million year old fish fossils!

It was truly exciting to know that you were the first thing that had seen that fish in 50 million years! We found dozens of fish, several that were in layers where there was a mass die out (due to temperature or salinity level probably). And while we were there George found a rare large gar in the cliff. (Exciting stuff!) By the time we left we were soaked (it rained and stormed several times), filthy (all that rock turns into dust), exhausted and super duper excited. In 12 years of public schooling I never felt one minute of one day the way I did driving away from Warfield that afternoon. I love that I am able to show my kids that learning is a lifelong pursuit...heck, I am glad that I'm finally learning it!

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