It’s Fossil Butte NOT Butt

Well hello there, you’ve caught me in a respite between bouts of nighttime sneezing, so here’s the lowdown on all the exciting things that happened on Day 3 of Summer Odyssey 2015.

The theme of the day: exploration! We got up bright and early, and were out of the apartment by 9 AM for a day of fun. I think I nodded off in the car for some of the trip, but two hours later and we had crossed into Wyoming, the 41st state I can say I’ve been in. We stopped off in Evanston for gas, snacks, and a bathroom break, but it wasn’t long before we found ourselves (well, we arrived, we knew where we were going) at Fossil Butte National Monument outside Kemmerer, WY. On the way, I taught the group the “We Call It Butte NOT Butt” song, and even though someone was always singing it, it never became unfunny. That’s the best.

Unlike yesterday’s national park adventure, today we practically had the place to ourselves. The weather was gorgeous; not too hot or cold, bright sunshine, blue skies, and a cool breeze. Walking along to the visitors center is a railing which is also a giant timeline denoting when certain things appeared, like sponges and bacteria, and when certain landforms came to be. It wrapped around the whole visitor center and was very informative. Human beings were only a tiny red arrow at the end; makes you feel so, so small.

Even though the visitors center is pretty small, we spent about an hour there looking at fossil imprints of everything from plants to seeds to bugs to animals to…fossilized poop. That was a crowd favorite. As we watched, a park ranger carved a fossil out of stone right before our eyes. It was incredible – the real deal – an ichthyologist at work. Ramona actually came up with some seriously interesting questions for a 4-year-old; she wanted to know where on the body of the fish do they start etching, the head or the tail, and how do they know how big it will be? The ranger, Andy, told her (and us) that they always start at the head, when they find it. Based on how the fish is facing, they work down the body to the tail, and usually it just tapers down. Important to know, or else they just be chipping away at empty stone all day. We also learned that they have found fossilized fish with other fossilized fish in their mouths; a sign that the bigger fish probably choked to death.

And that’s why you always chew your food, kids.

After learning that valuable lesson, getting some souvenirs, and Junior Ranger badges for the girls, we headed to the trail for a picnic lunch. You just can’t beat cheese sandwiches in a gazebo looking out over the wilderness. Then, we headed off on our post-lunch hike. It was not as strenuous as the hike up to Timpanogos, but just like yesterday, Iris and I played trailblazer and sped ahead of Julie and Nathan who were corralling Ramona and hoping she’d want to walk more instead of riding on her dad’s shoulders in the heat. They caught up to us at the halfway point, and just as we headed out, Julie told us to look out for black bears. Somehow, this ended up becoming a giant story about evil teddy bears, and Iris and I went back and forth creating an entire movie treatment complete with sound effects as we hiked, and before we knew it, we were back at the car. The other three came back, reporting that Julie had gotten stung by a bee, and that they saw a big rattlesnake in the path (which we probably missed because we were lost in our own world) and headed back home. On the way, we saw a huge herd of pronghorn deer, plenty of cows, and not much else. Still, the “not much else” of Wyoming was more beautiful in color than most other places. As the earth-tones of Wyoming faded into the Utah green, it was hard to believe that we’d been sitting in a car for almost three hours each way. With so much to see and fun conversations going on in the car, it was almost like no time at all.

Back in town, I treated everyone to all-you-can-eat sushi, which might have been a huge mistake for the tummy but it was so, so good after a tough day of hiking. I polished off four rolls so quickly it was like they were not even there.

Tomorrow: my last full day in Utah 😦 other than the altitude headaches and the constant sneezing/nose bleeds I’ve been enduring, it’s just so beautiful and fun here. This time tomorrow night, I’ll be spending the night on an uncomfortable plane from Salt Lake City to Philadelphia, then to Baltimore for Leg 2.

Better press publish before my computer clock rolls over to tomorrow even though it’s only 10:55 PM here.

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