Day 13: In Wyoming

fossil leaf collection

fossil leaf collection

A good night’s sleep is had by all and we are ready for the park at 6:10 am. We hiked the 2.5 mile loop Historic Quarry Trail. A side trail leads to the spot where Lee “Peg Leg” Craig mined for fish fossils for forty years, even though he lost one of his legs in a mining accident. The Haddenham Shelter is a triangular structure with room for a bed in the middle, and food and supplies on the sides.

We interrupt some deer in the middle of their breakfast and they are a bit hesitant to eat as they keep an eye on us. As we look for fossils in the wall’s layers we learn that where we stand used to be at the bottom of Fossil Lake fifty million years ago. There wasn’t enough oxygen to support life, so there was nothing to eat the dead fish that hit the bottom. Then calcium-rich river water mixed with alkaline lake water and the inhabitants were fossilized quickly in layers of limestone.

The visitor center opens at 8:00 am, but I am sidetracked by the signs leading up to it that start with Earth’s history from 4.5 billion years ago. Once we are parked we can walk around the railing, 9 inches equaling 1 million years, and start with history at 540 million years ago and watch as the animal life, from invertebrates to dinosaurs to mammals, and formations of the Earth, mountains to fields to oceans to deserts, change.

replica of a lithornithid bird

replica of a lithornithid bird

Inside they have an extensive collection of fish fossils, leaves, seeds, shelled creatures, winged bugs, and birds. The most impressive piece is the body of a Borealosuchus wilsoni – an extinct genus of crocodilians that lived from the Late Cretaceous period to the Eocene. We hike the 1.5 mile long Chicken Creek Nature Trail and see a snail-shell, and a beautiful marmot moving among the rocks. We see evidence of moose or elk dinner chewed from the bark of a sea of aspen trees.

We stop in Laketown, Utah and I get charged 53 cents to put an ounce of cold coffee in my cup. Driving in cloudy weather makes me drowsy and I was hoping for a pick-me-up. The next town, Garden City, has a chocolate-covered-raspberry shop that doesn’t open until 11:00 am. This gave us 17 minutes to walk to the gas station four blocks away for armor all and water, but Caleb forgot his wallet.

We walked back to the candy shop, bought the raspberries 7 for $3 and a bag of chocolate covered peanuts, then drove back to the gas station, and paid for our goods. We stopped at a convenient store in Logan to find a local place to get our oil changed. I asked the girl behind the counter where she gets hers done, ”not here” was her reply. What kind of answer is that? We find a Jiffy Lube after the neighborhood shop gave us a two-hour wait.

the rain coming in City of Rocks

the rain coming in City of Rocks

We got our oil changed, floor vacuumed, and windows cleaned for $45 in 15 minutes and then drove past snow-covered mountains into Idaho heading to the City of Rocks National Reserve. The skies went from a bit cloudy to dark gray and overcast. We talked with the park ranger for a while and got plenty of brochures. She assured us that 70% chance of rain meant zero, so we drove to campsite 11 with the intent of staying.

We climbed the rock nearby, met Allison who was teaching Chris to rock climb, and locked up our bikes. When I was reversing out of the site to drive to a trailhead Caleb noticed someone else had already reserved the spot. As we went looking for another site it began to rain – we drove to Burley. The first hotel Garmin finds doesn’t exist and the second one advertises $30 rooms. The guy inside runs our credit card three times to get the receipt to print.

We end up paying $42 for room 9 that we happened to be parked in front of. There are burn marks on the floor and bed, a blood stain on a pillow, and a dirty bathroom and microwave. Caleb is ready to leave, but agrees to shower while standing on a pizza box. He gets comfortable enough to take his shoes off and asks me if it’s normal for wool socks to stick to carpet. Perhaps we could set up the tent on the bed.

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