Saturday, August 9, 2014

dinosaur days

I don't know whether I've mentioned this here but our boy knows a lot about dinosaurs. And consequently, I have learned, over the past few years, more about dinosaurs than I could ever have imagined. I felt badly about my lack of dinosaur knowledge for a while until the recent discovery that when I was back learning these things in school, (back in the Triassic practically) there were only a handful of dinosaurs to learn about - triceratops, stegosaurus, brontosaurus, velociraptors, and good old Mr T-Rex. Of course now a days they discover new dinosaurs every week which makes me feel so much better. Ok, well slightly better. So this past winter we tossed around the idea of a vacation to the dinosaur trail in nearby Alberta. I had briefly visited Drumheller and the Tyrrell museum (as it was then) when I moved across the country but a visit to the Alberta tourism website promised so much more. So the trip was planned and a few weeks ago we set off for our dinosaur adventure. We started off in Calgary, visiting the wonderful zoo there. The boy was extremely excited about seeing the Komodo Dragon exhibit there but to our pleasant surprise, when we got to the zoo, they have a large Prehistoric Park which features a large landscaped area with features similar to the Badlands and large dinosaurs looming in all directions. Very cool.

 We toured the Canadian Wilds, the African savanah and the boy nearly had a melt down before we finally made it to the Asia pavilion with the Komodo Dragon. She was a bit smaller than we anticipated but for our boy it was very exciting to see one in person so to speak. And then to be able to sit on the large Komodo Dragon sculpture afterwards.

From the Zoo, we drove to Drumheller. First stop was the World's Tallest Dinosaur, climbing the inside of the T-rex to view the landscape from inside a T-rex jaw. A brief tour around Reptile World and a visit with Fred, the 600 lb aligator, a crodile lizard (the longest lizard in the world, the Komodo Dragon is the largest lizard), several extremely venomous snakes and the chance to hold Jose, the boa constrictor. Boy fascinated, mummy not so much.

 Onwards to the Royal Tyrrell Museum, which is much expanded since my last visit. Beautiful museum, with fascinating exhibits. Well worth the trip to Drumheller. The following day we did the Badlands interpretive hike and the boy dug for his own dinosaur at Fossil World. We also toured an old coal mine. My husband found the town's dinosaur focus (as in fiberglass dinosaurs on every street corner) a bit over the top but all the kids we saw loved it all.

From Dumheller we moved on to Brooks and a visit to Dinosaur Provincial Park. After miles of canola fields and grazing pastures for cows, sheep and the occasional llama, Dinosaur is once again back in the Badlands. The park is beautiful and seemed quiet after Drumheller. We had booked a Fossil Safari tour which takes groups into the park reserve (not open to the public) to a bone bed, so named because even though this particular area had been excavated already for 11 years, there are still bones underfoot. Our guide made us take an oath to leave all fossils, rocks, etc behind and then told us how to distinguish between a bone and rock or wood. We then spent some time searching for microfossils - small bones, shell, teeth etc. I found bits of tortoise shell, both the boy and I found lots of fossilized crocodile poo (which made him very happy) and my husband found a champasaurus vertebrae (prehistoric crocodile) and a hadrosaur tooth. It was very windy that day, which meant lots of sand in our eyes, but kept the bugs to a minimum. We drove around the public part of the park, viewing the fossil displays along the way, did a couple of short hikes and had a picnic near the campground. I found the park beautiful and awe inspiring. The sense of time and history is amazing, as you are literally walking in prehistoric pathways.
some of the fossils we found

we didn't meet a snake in the wild, thankfully
 On the way back home, through Calgary, we visited the War Museums as both my guys love tanks, airplanes, etc and the boy was in tank heaven. A wonderful and different trip.

Spike the Spinosaurus and Al the Allosaurus