This summer I got to travel through time with my family.
We started our journey by heading back 50 million years to a spot near Kemmerer, Wyoming. After riding up a mountainside, we stepped into a barren land of rock in 100-degree heat. At least, that’s how Ulrich’s quarry would look to most people. Really, we were standing in a huge lake teaming with fish from eons ago.
QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Our family of seven (Mom, Dad and us five kids) had come from Maryland to hunt for fossils. When we uncovered one, we were the very first people to ever see that fish. It was like finding treasure buried for millions of years.
My Dad loves paleontology, and he had dug here more than 20 years ago with my Mom – before they had kids. Now he had brought us to the site to see how much fun — and what hard work it is — to find fossils. And it was hard work, putting a blade into a huge flat slab, then hammering until the rock split. We would then lift the slab up, and hope to see a fossil. The lake had been packed with fish, so frequently we did find something. I was so excited to hold a fossil fish in my hand, when most people only get to see one behind a glass case in a museum.
After three hours, our wood pallets were full of fish. Our guide cut all of the fossils into nice rectangles, and we picked the best ones to ship home. We were flying back, so we couldn’t carry 50 pounds of fish!
The next day, we traveled farther into the past – to the Jurassic Period – some 150 million years ago. We were at Dinosaur National Monument near Jensen, Utah. My whole family stood, astonished, at the enormous wall of bones from an ancient river bed where the dinosaurs had died. My Dad pointed out a Camarasaurus skull here, a Stegosaurus plate there. It was a spectacular wall of bones that once belonged to living dinosaurs, and we were getting to see them just as they had been preserved for millions of years.
There were also dinosaur skeletons to see, exhibits to read and lots to learn about. My siblings and I even got sworn in as Junior Rangers by a real park ranger, and we have the badges to prove it!
The next day we traveled even farther into prehistory – to the Cambrian Period – more than 200 million years before there were even dinosaurs. At U-Dig Fossils near Delta, Utah, we each grabbed a bucket and rock hammer, and headed to a quarry. There were huge hills piled high with thousands of black and gray rocks. Any one of them could have a trilobite — a prehistoric sea creature related to horseshoe crabs.
I’d seen trilobites in museums and rock shops, but I’d never thought I’d find one. Yet here we were hunting them in a dry barren area that once was a prehistoric ocean! We all spread out, climbing the hills, hammering the rocks (hard!), breaking them open, and looking inside. I was thrilled to find my first trilobite – then another and another! Altogether, my family left with four buckets full of these wonderful little animals.
What a summer trip! In just three days, we had traveled back 500 million years. We came home with fossils that had survived for eons, and memories that will last forever.
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