Saturday, June 10, 2017

Albertosaurs, Tyrannosaurs, and Nodosaurs, Oh My!

Our visit to the Royal Tyrell Dinosaur Museum and Badlands in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada a few days ago was a lovely, amazing surprise to me.

Driving into Drumheller, one sees dinosaurs everywhere in the form of humorous plaster figures, some large, some smaller, cute and kind of kitschy, but they led me to believe that the museum itself might be more of the same.

WRONG! The Royal Tyrell Dinosaur Museum is a world reknown center of paleontological research, with astounding displays of life forms covering the 3.9 billion year history of life on earth.
On entering the museum, visitors are greeted by a life-like exhibit of Albertosaurus, the flesh eating dinosaur discovered in that area in 1884 by a man searching for coal seams.  It soon became apparent that this region of Alberta contained a rich and varied collection of fossilized life forms, which continue to be protected, are reported to the government and then carefully excavated and examined.
Model of Albertosaurus on entering the museum
The museum takes its visitors from that first display through an introduction to the geology of the area, displays that explain how fossils come to be, displays of fossils of various life forms - both plant and animal - and concludes this section with a side by side display demonstrating the way fossils are usually found, and how some extremely lucky finds are made.
The scattered way most fossils are found and have to be put together by paleontologists like a giant puzzle
The way fossils are found in rare and very fortunate circumstances
 The next section of the museum includes a viewing area where visitors can watch paleontologists working on cleaning fossils.  This latter area also displays examples of the tools used for this type of research, such as dental picks and drills, and exhibits about how fossils are prepared and protected for storage or display.  These displays end with "Black Beauty" Tyranosaurus Rex named that because mineral deposits pigmented the bones black. This display demonstrates the remarkable result of painstaking effort of many years, by many scientists who have built their lives around educating themselves and the rest of us about a past that otherwise would be lost.
The head on the floor in front is the REAL one, which was too heavy to mount for display, so a plaster cast substitute was added to the exhibited skeleton.
From there you enter a series of chronological galleries with beautifully done exhibits of the life forms of the various time periods, which are introduced with the following chart and reinforced throughout the exhibits. There are many interactive sections where children are encouraged to touch, feel, think and fully experience this remarkable museum and the people who do this kind of research and work.

Throughout the museum, the written explanations about the displays serve to not only inform, but to whet the appetite for additional information.

Part of a section representing early marine life

Throughout the museum, displays of fossil animals are shown against a backdrop of  artwork that depicts the imagined real scene at the time.
Docents walk around the museum and offer tours or additional information about displays.  We encountered such a docent who told us with great excitement about the exceptionally well-preserved nodosaur that had only gone on display days before our arrival.  The nodosaur had been found with many external protective plates intact, even sections of skin preserved, and remarkably had even preserved the stomach contents so those studying this sample could determine what it had eaten for its last meal! I was so enthralled by this one that I neglected to take photos - please follow the link in this paragraph to read more about this remarkable find.

A visit to the museum is not complete without taking the walking tour through the adjacent badlands to get a greater understanding of the geology of this particular area.  If you are in Alberta, a visit to the Royal Tyrell is an experience not to be missed!

Two Hoodoos; chimney-like rock formations (fun to read more about here)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Vancouver Visit and Starting Back to Michigan

One of the key reasons for this trip was to spend a bit more time with this little fellow who has captured our hearts and those of all around him.

3 Generations of Greenfield Men

Once we completed our family visits and our time exploring the northwest corner of Washington State, we headed across the border once more into Canada, in order to take the Trans-Canada Highway across the lower provinces in order to experience what our map had marked as "scenic" all the way across the country.  Because internet access has been sporadic on this portion of our trip, blogging has become a catch-up game.  By the time I can report on an area, we are long since gone from there.

The Canadian Rockies, British Columbia, Canada
Coming, as we do, from Michigan, mountains are a breathtaking sight to us, so we planned our trip home so we could spend two nights camping in Golden, BC and spend one "true vacation" day driving  to Lake Louise and the Icefield Parkway in the rockies.  We have had remarkable weather on this trip 99% of the time, and this drive was no exception; the day driving to Golden was a bit damp and cloudy, allowing us to see the surrounding mountains shrouded in fog, relatively clear, low-lying valleys with rivers tumbling and foaming down steep rocky slopes, and bighorn sheep lying peacefully near the roadway, seemingly watching traffic rather than bounding in the rocky terrain above as we would have expected.



Note: This is Canada's 150th anniversary, and they are celebrating by providing FREE passage to all national parks in Canada to EVERY VISITOR, not just Canadians.  We were blown away by this display of generosity and welcome from Canada to it's foreign visitors.

At the suggestion of a park guide, we began our day at Lake Louise, Banff National Park, which was already packed with tourists fairly early in the morning, but the park service had people in place to guide visitors to the rapidly diminishing empty parking spots.  Once parked, we joined the throng heading toward the remarkable turquoise waters of the lake reflecting the mountains around it, and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Resort Hotel.  The scenery is incredible, and if you manage to pass, uninjured, the gauntlet of selfie-sticks being waved around indiscriminately, to wander just part of the path that surrounds the lake, you have the opportunity to see the lake and it's magnificent surroundings in all their glory.

Yes, those ARE kayakers out there in the (literally) icy water!

We left Lake Louise to spend the day driving part of the Icefield Parkway, making multiple stops to enjoy the spectacular scenery.  The day was clear and sunny, so unlike the previous day's drive, we could see each mountain peak clearly, and often see it nearly as clearly reflected in the surrounding waters.

One of our favorite stops was at Bow Lake, which had similar turquoise water to Lake Louise, a much more rustic resort, and far fewer people.  The reflections of the mountains here were broken up by the surprisingly large amount of ice and ice floes still on the lake, similar to what we experienced at Lake Louise, though the weather was sunny and summery, and vegetation along the lakeshore was already green and past spring bloom time.

The road is well maintained and wide, but has indisputably steep grades throughout, so we were surprised to see that there was what appeared to be a citizen bike race being held along the entire length of the Parkway that day.  When we asked about it at an information booth, we were told it was a relay race that is held annually and involves all levels of riders.  Altogether we have been quite surprised at the number of cyclists we have seen throughout our trip across Canada so far.  Many great bike paths along the Trans-Canada Highway, and many people of all ages using them, some obviously on day trips, others with bikes heavily loaded with gear, indicating they are riding for days or longer.  These are hardy folks!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

2017 - Spring trip westward; catching up on where we've been

Much of this particular trip has revolved around touching base with family, both in Oregon, and in Vancouver, BC.  Because of that, our preferred destination campground this time was located in Bellingham, close enough to easily visit both locations.  Our "destination campgrounds" are normally state or national parks with beautiful scenery and few amenities.  This time, due to the length of our stay, we chose a Good Sam campground called Bellingham RV Park because it has provided full-hookup at our site (water, electric, and sewer), as well as immaculate restrooms and laundry facilities. The latter is important when spending a couple of weeks in one destination :)

As we explored this area, we spent some time in Fairhaven, a historic part of the city of Bellingham, situated on the water's edge and rich with interesting old buildings turned to new use, a very active biking and walking area, home to trendy shops, wonderful bookstores, varied restaurants. We had a delicious lunch and a good browse at Colophon Cafe and then walked around a bit just taking in the scenery.  I was so busy taking in the scenery that I neglected to take photos!  Fun area to explore; fair warning: STEEP streets in some sections.

We spoke with people we met about this area of Washington and learned that although it has not yet reached the outrageousness of Seattle in terms of traffic and real estate madness (people in Seattle reportedly receive multiple offers well over asking price within days of listing their homes), folks from Seattle are moving to this location  (Bellingham and surrounding area)  and commuting to work  (both real-time and virtual commuting).

We spent several days exploring the communities of Anacortes and La Conner, both seaside towns.  Coming from Michigan and appreciating the beauty of the Great Lakes, we are also always enthralled by oceans and ocean bays as saltier and larger versions of the water we have come to love - nay, feel bonded to - over the many years of living in the midwest. Some of the huge differences between this shoreline in Washington and what we are accustomed to in Michigan are: rocky shoreline vs sandy shoreline, 6-9 foot tides compared to negligible tides, varied marine life detritus on beaches vs the occasional dead fish on Lake Michigan beaches.  But the water - AH, the magic of the water, the power of the water, THAT is similar!  That makes us feel at home in an area far from home.

Here are some of the scenes that have endeared this area of the country to us.:
Bridge from Anacortes to Whidbey Island

Harbor in Anacortes

Washington Park outside Anacortes 
Washington Park.  We ate lunch looking at this scene
Washington Park.  This pair of Bald Eagles was calmly perched just below where we were eating our lunch.
Semiahmoo Park, Blaine, WA

Scotch Broom - considered an invasive plant in this part of the U.S. - but what a beautiful nuisance !

Monday, May 22, 2017

Pacific City, Oregon

Landing again in Pacific City, Oregon several days ago for a two-day stay was a return to a place from which we have a number of fond memories with family and friends on past visits: walking the amazing beach; the view of surfers against the background of Haystack Rock; clamming (we watched several years ago in amazement as a friend found and dug the clams, we cooked them, then all joined in the eating); an home-made sushi feast a few years back; a "welcome here" salmon dinner just a few months ago prepared on the fly by son John; sharing beer and conversation at a local bar, and coffee and breakfast in a local eatery after a storm took out the electricity in most of the surrounding area.

Things are changing here, new buildings going up, new businesses sprouting; while it's good to see a small town be healthy and vibrant, I worry that the type of building and new businesses coming to Pacific City will make it forever lose its small beach town charm and personality.  In reviewing the photos I took while visiting here, I realized I stayed clear of documenting any of the incipient growth taking place around me; I turned my back to it all and just took photos of the places that made this town dear to my heart.


This trip we had the opportunity to experience a totally different aspect of this region - its rivers.  Our son took us on a brief rafting trip on the Wilson River, which we had seen briefly in passing by short sections of it on the road to Pacific City.  Experiencing it from the water, rather than the road, was amazing! I LOVE, love, love the forests of this area: the huge old trees hung heavily with mosses of various types, the underbrush heavy with ferns, the numerous small streams and waterfalls emptying into the river, bubbling over mossy rock beds. I cannot help but expect fairies and gnomes to appear at the riverside as we glide by.  But those fairytale figures eluded us, instead we passed a few fishermen who were experiencing a beautiful, sunny day with no fish to speak of.
Starting the launch down a steep bank

And....the raft is in the water!

I could live here..... 
Little streams rushing into the river...
Moss-covered rocks, small and (in this case) beautiful!

HUGE, moss-covered, wind-formed old tree - SO beautiful (the photo does not do it justice).
Hard to see in the photo, but this tree spans the area where the water has washed away the sand between roots so that the tree is in effect sending down roots on each side of the rushing water; the tree bark is covered with mosses and ferns.
THANK YOU JOHN H. GREENFIELD for being our host, our guide and wonderful son!