Flaming Gorge dam
“Double Arch” at Arches National Park
A young dinosaur celebrates
What happens when you reach the age of eighty? Well, you're one day older than you were when you were seventy-nine, and you celebrate as you move into the next decade of your life. I celebrated by getting closer to the age of dinosaurs.
My eightieth birthday celebration was a tour of dinosaur country with my husband, who just celebrated his eighty-fifth year, and our white-water-rafting-enthusiastic family. They were leaving on just such an adventure shortly after we came to visit, and we had been invited to come along.
We watched with interest as they gathered provisions, equipment, and clothing, packed two cars, plus made use of a fellow traveler’s truck space. We left Placitas with seven passengers in two cars, and a goal of reaching Grand Junction for an overnight stop, passing through Silverton and Ouray, Colorado, and traversing two wondrous but scary mountain passes that took us up to more than ten thousand feet.
We were following our son-in-law in his weathered Explorer, easy to see because of the gear stowed on the roof, and carrying our twenty-one-year-old Pittsburgh grandson and his friend. Our car, driven by our sixteen-year-old grandson, carried our daughter, my husband, and me. As we climbed the heights and dived the depths of the passes, my husband repeatedly cautioned our driver that he was putting his grandfather within eight inches of death! The dropoff at the road’s edge was frightening.
On arising the next morning, we left Grand Junction for the Gates of Lodore, with a stop in Fruita, where we played musical cars with members of our caravan, picking up four more river enthusiasts and adding two more cars to the string.
At the put-in we watched the unloading of deflated rafts, frames, dry bags, coolers, and watertight boxes, and watched tents pop up under the shade trees. Bob and I decided we had better leave on our two-and-a-half-hour drive to Dinosaur, Colorado, where we were to begin our journey into real dinosaur country. We drove back to the main road and turned west. We were absolutely alone on the road. At Dinosaur, population three hundred, I was greeted at the Terrace Motel by a cute little Aunt Bee lady.
In the morning, we bade good-bye to Aunt Bee and headed for Vernal, Utah, for the next part of our celebration. We took Highway 191 out of Vernal about forty miles north, past incredible rock canyons walls, to Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. Information signs told the ages of the rock formations and what life if any had existed there. We were looking at rocks formed 548 million years ago, some from the early- and late-Jurassic periods and the Paleocene and Eocene epochs. We passed the Morrison, Entrada, and Navajo sandstone formations, driving over what had been a huge sea millions of years ago. At the visitors' center, the dam rises 502 feet above bedrock and creates a reservoir covering 42,020 acres, with more than three hundred miles of shoreline, boat ramps and marinas, campgrounds, and full-service lodges. Gorge National Recreation Area is most famous for its fishing, producing enormous trout of world-record size, including a Mackinaw (lake) trout weighing more than fifty pounds and rainbow trout over twenty-five pounds. Petroglyphs and artifacts suggest that prehistoric people of the Fremont culture hunted game near the gorge and Ute tribes visited there later. We continued north to Dutch John and Antelope Flat along the reservoir.
The next day we visited the new State of Utah Dinosaur Museum in Vernal and enjoyed an awesome display, complete with a gigantic woolly mammoth standing outside in the garden. His “wool” is made of hemp and has to be replaced periodically because the birds like to use it to make their nests.
The next day was July 4 and time to head for the takeout and welcome back our river rafters, but first we visited the Dinosaur Quarry at the Dinosaur National Monument, another amazing display. Then we headed for Split Mountain takeout point. Around the bend they came, all seventeen travelers, tired and full of mosquito bites, but all in one piece.
We traveled with our daughter and family to Moab, with a stop in Fruita to discharge our pickups and say farewell to the group as they headed for home. In Moab we were in time to enjoy the Fourth of July fireworks display from our motel veranda.
The following day we drove through Arches National Park, where we gazed at the monoliths, arches, spires, balanced rocks, sandstone fins, and eroded rock formations atop an underground salt bed responsible for these wondrous sights. This salt bed was deposited across the Colorado Plateau some three hundred million years ago when the land was still a sea (it eventually evaporated).
We drove through Canyonlands National Park to the Island in the Sky, a vasat expanse of canyon lands formed 185 million years ago during the early-Jurassic age of the dinosaurs. Navajo sandstone forms the mesa tops, and petrified wood and dinosaur tracks provide more evidence that Horseshoe Canyon, in the park, was once lakefront property
We ended my celebration journey that night with a float on the Colorado River through towering walls of Navajo sandstone illuminated by klieg lights, while listening to the history of the canyon and the town of Moab—a wonderful end to a wonderful celebration.
So what have I learned as I enter the ninth decade of my life? I'm not as old as the dinosaurs; life is a celebration to be enjoyed every moment we are allowed; we need to protect this world in which we exist; and we need to adapt to change or disappear.
What will I do to celebrate my ninetieth? Perhaps step on that raft and shove off to enjoy a great white-water adventure!
Recruitment underway for Department of Game and Fish conservation officers
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is looking for a few good men and women to join the next generation of professionals who protect and conserve our precious wildlife. Recruitment is underway for conservation-officer trainees to fill multiple positions statewide.
The department is encouraging people with diverse educational degrees to apply for the positions. Qualifications include a degree from a four-year accredited college, passing a physical fitness test, and successfully completing a five-month training course at the state Law Enforcement Academy. Acceptable college degrees include biology, fisheries science, wildlife science, animal science, forestry, range science, agricultural science, communications, journalism, outdoor recreation, environmental science, wildlife law enforcement, resource economics, criminal justice, ecology, natural resource management, zoology, behavioral science, social science, and others.
Applicants can find the recruiting notice and application instructions on the State Personnel Office Web site, www.state.nm.us/spo. Trainee annual salaries begin at $27,331. Eligible applicants must have completed their degrees by December 2005 and show proof of the degree by January 9, 2006, the projected start date. The projected start date for successful applicants who already have an appropriate degree is September 26, 2005.
Interested applicants can obtain more information about conservation officer duties, educational and physical requirements, training, and employee benefits by contacting the Department of Game and Fish Human Resources Office at (505) 476-8028 or visiting www.wildlife.state.nm.us.