Road Trip 2018: Craters of the Moon National Monument

After our science-y adventures we finally reached Craters of the Moon National Monument.  I can vaguely remember going here as a kid at some point.  And I think we recreated that trip almost in its entirety.

I can remember hiking up Inferno Cone and the deceptiveness of the climb.  When you think you’re just about at the top you find out the trail just levels out for a moment and the angle hides the rest of the cone.  Heather and I went to the top….

While Jess and Corinne waited at the bottom:

We saw the snow at the bottom of Snow Cone:

And look, pictorial evidence that I was on this trip!

That evening we had dinner at another Culver’s, this one in Twin Falls:

And we pushed on to Elko, NV and found a hotel with a pool for the girls to do some swimming.  The next day it was all the way home and the Great Road Trip of 2018 was finally over.

 

Road Trip 2018: EBR-I & Arco Science Park

As one drives west across Idaho from Idaho Falls on highway 20 there is a whole lot of nothing until, bam, EBR-I and Idaho National Laboratory.  EBR-I is open to the public and we decided, what the heck, we likely will never be by here again.  EBR-I is Experimental Breeding Reactor One and was able to power its own facilities as a nuclear power plant.

Here is the floor where fuel rods were stored:

We didn’t spend much time there (Corinne and Heather were not exactly interested) so it was on to Arco for lunch at Pickle’s Place.

Across the street from Pickle’s Place is the Arco Science Park.  Might as well let the girls burn off some energy.  They have a torpedo and a submarine conning tower.

The conning tower from the USS Hawkbill, SSN-666:

Then we were ready for our main destination of the day, Craters of the Moon National Monument.

Road Trip 2018: Grand Teton National Park

After our Dinosaur Dig adventure we began our return trip west.  We drove out past the end of civilization into the wilderness until we came to The Hatchet which is pretty much entirely by itself along Highway 287.  We watched the sunset behind the mountains wreathed in smoke from the fires raging across the country and went to bed.

The next morning it was up and out to try to get into Grand Teton National Park while there was still parking available.  We made it, but not by much.  We stopped in a shop to pick up some snacks for our hike up to and around Moose Pond.  Sadly, we didn’t see any moose.  But it was still quite pretty and calm.

This sign was suspiciously similar to the signs in Jurassic Park….including the arrow which looks like you could peel it off and point it in any direction.

Once we finished our hike we drove to Jackson Hole and rode the gondolas up the mountain.

Hey, when Heather insists I take a picture of her making a silly face, it’s going to end up on the internet…

After Grand Teton we headed into Idaho.  I had originally hoped to get all the way to Arco, but it became clear that was not going to happen.  So we found somewhere to stay in Idaho Falls, ate some Culver’s for dinner, and called it a night.

Road Trip 2018: Wyoming Dinosaur Center

After the family reunion wrapped up, we headed up to Provo for Jess’ brother’s wedding.  Then we drove up in to Wyoming to the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis.  We thought this would be a fun and unique experience in light of Heather’s long and continuing interest in paleontology.

We signed up for a “Dig for a Day” package where we got to go out to one of their active dig sites, work on the site, tour the nearby Sundance formation, work in the lab, and have a personal tour of the museum.

We were a little concerned with how well it would work out given the girls’ ages, but it was a blast.  Our guides, Seth and Emily, were fantastic with the girls.  They found age-appropriate tasks for them both and kept them engaged and excited about the trip.  The only downside is just how far out in the middle of nowhere Thermopolis is; but if you’ve got kids interested in paleontology and you happen to be anywhere in the vicinity, I highly recommend the experience.

We got to work on Foot Site which has been active for ~20 years yielding over 550 fossils so far.  One primarily finds diplodocus bones there.

Here come a lot of pictures:

 

Heather found a fossil!  When found, fossils are marked with white-out and an identifier is written on the white-out.  So the white-splotch she’s pointing at is the white-out.  In this formation, the fossils are a dark grey color among the light tan of the surrounding rock.

As the discoverer of the fossil, she got to put her name in the site tracking book on the entry for the fossil.  This information will follow the fossil through its scientific life cycle.

 

I found a fossil too!  One of our guides made an initial determination that it’s a chevron from the tail of a diplodocus.  That will validated once fully excavated.  It’s fully embedded in stone, so I spent quite a while carefully chiseling away stone.  After being encouraged to be a little more aggressive I managed to break the fossil twice.  But that was no big deal, some super-glue and were back in business.

My approach to finding the fossil was to estimate the depth of the existing fossils on the site and then simply move a few feet over and work my way down to that same level.  And it worked!

 

Kyle’s Fossil.  This is about 4 inches of exposed fossil and the guides estimate it’s probably about half of the bone.

 

We had lunch at Foot Site and did a little more excavating.  Then we drove out to the Sundance Formation.  Which is the shores of an ancient sea.  Here fossils of clams and other sea creatures are just littered all over.  At Foot Site they catalog all the fossils and return them to the lab for scientific evaluation.  At Sundance, anything you can find you can keep.  We have a 1-gallon bag of fossil-containing rocks from here.

 

It was hot out on Sundance, so we shortly returned to the air-conditioning of the lab and learned a bit about specimen cleaning.  I believe the guides said that for every hour on the dig site you end up spending about 6 hours in the lab.  We used dental picks, toothbrushes, and pneumatic chisels to carefully remove the rock surrounding some vertebra.

 

Once we finished up in the lab, Seth and Emily gave us a personal tour of the museum.

 

A maiasaura nest:

After our great day of paleontology we piled back up in the van to head out toward Grand Teton National Park.

Road Trip 2018: Dickerson Family Reunion – Glen Canyon Dam, Antelope Canyon, & Old Paria

On August 1 we had a reservation to visit Antelope Canyon outside of Page, Arizona.

Glen Canyon Dam

So I, Jess, and the girls headed off early to visit Glen Canyon Dam on our way.

In this picture, Corinne refuses to look at the camera and Jess has just poked Heather in the eye with her sunglasses, but doesn’t realize it yet:

Antelope Canyon

After our dam tour we headed in to Page for lunch and ice-cream at Slackers.  Then it was out to the staging area for our Antelope Canyon tour.  We got there, the rest of the family arrived, and then it started pouring, thundering, and lightning-ing.  Then, after we all got flash-flood warning alerts on our phones, they canceled the tour.  So no Antelope Canyon for us.  Which was frustrating as I had booked it something like 6 months ago and was looking forward to it.

Old Paria

After being rained out at Antelope Canyon we needed to come up with something else to do.  We decided to take a look at what’s left of Old Paria–a ghost town that my family visited when I was growing up that has since been burned down by vandals.  On the drive back up in to Utah we stopped at Big Water Visitor Center to let the girls out for a bit. It was closed, but had some outdoors exhibits we could still look at about dinosaurs and the geological history of the area.

We got to the trailhead for Old Paria just as the rest of the group was heading in, so we joined up with the back of the caravan.

 

The dirt road was in decent shape most of the way out to a picnic area.  We did have to cross one wash, but it was manageable even with 2-wheel-drive minivans, but then the road crosses the river bed which was not going to happen in our vehicles.  So we parked there and walked.

(The guy in the green shirt isn’t with our group.)

 

Here’s us sort of recreating an old picture from when my family visited the same Paria Cemetery when I was growing up.  If someone gets me that picture I’ll put it up too, but I don’t have it.

 

It started raining with some thunder while we were at the cemetery.  So we turned around to head back to the vehicles.