I’d wanted to go to Fossil Butte National Monument since I was eight or ten but I couldn’t really remember why… or even what it was… I drove in and there was all sorts of markers aside the road reading which era of history I was driving into as I drove ever downwards. It was really neat and then I went to the visitor center and all along their walkway there was a strip reading when various animals have been found on the fossil record. Can you believe starfish are over 400 million years old? Creepy, I know.
The visitor center was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. They had fossils everywhere they found in the local area from the world’s oldest bat to a perfect little Eohippus, a huge alligator, lots of fish, insects, and plants. If you ever want to make me happy just drop me off at a place like that… I marveled at everything. There was a woman working behind glass to clean up one of the fossils and make it visible. I couldn’t tell what it was but she was using a tiny little sandblaster and said a friendly hello. There were three blonde women and a large gaggle of children filing out of an RV. It looks as if their family had outgrown their SUV. Probably polygamists by the looks – where the husband? I couldn’t see him.
The park itself is free and it was a cool 70 degrees. I had time to kill and I wanted to know what was up with this place so I walked up the historic quarry trail. They said it was strenuous but most of these parks use “strenuous” to describe paths that are merely wheelchair inaccessible. They weren’t lying this time… this path was a good mile straight up and then another mile and a half across and back down. I’d gone up in the opposite direction I was supposed to so that this upward part would be shorter… I came across an old camp house used for processing the fossils. It looked like it was built almost out of scrap material but who knows what was considered new building material in the 1930’s, which was when it was put up. It aged remarkably well. You could see parts of an old car rusted into the ground and a small mountain stream I was tempted to jump into. My legs were KILLING me and I was sweating my ass off. I sipped rations of water as I took breaks here and there.
Eventually I walked up to the quarry part of the trail only to find it was another straight up detour. I could see the place but I hurt so bad. I somehow bulldogged it up there, knowing I’d pay for this. There were markers telling me which layers of the rock were what and a little information. It was neat. I looked around the rubble to see if I could find anything. I found a tiny fragment of something, it had piece of a body and a claw… perhaps a crayfish or something? No one was going to miss a half a centimeter fragment of something so I pocketed it. I also found a rock shaped like a fish, laughing I decided it was a fossil fish. I had to bring that one home too…
There was a register up there. I signed it, realizing I was the only person to attempt the trail today and that since the year began less than 300 people had been up there… I wrote in the comments, “Lots of poop, no animals.” And it was true. There was so much elk and deer poop up there someone should have started a garden…
By the time I got back down to the car I was happy I’d made it but I was exhausted, hot, and know I’d probably pay for this little adventure dearly.
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