Dinosaur Fossils and an Unlikely Discovery

The main attraction at Dinosaur National Monument is the fossil bone quarry that gave it its name. For some reason, a lot of dinosaurs met their end in the river that flowed through here at one time, and their bones settled on the riverbed below. There are approximately 1,500 (!!!) dinosaur bones here, and that’s after several entire skeletons were dug out and sent to museums all over the country. It was a hot afternoon, and I decided that this would be a good time to take the bike down the road from my new campsite to check it out.

On the way, there were some 1,000-year-old petroglyphs, so of course, I stopped to check them out.

I haven’t been this excited about dinosaurs since I was a little kid. Who wouldn’t be? Look at them all! I’ve never seen this many in one place before. It wasn’t just the fossils in the quarry, either. They had some replicas, as well as actual rare fossils under glass, like skulls. The bones in skulls are quite thin and usually break, if not as the cause of death then under the forces of being buried for millions of years. But they had some amazingly intact ones.

You’re never supposed to touch the exhibits, except when given explicit permission to do so. And here, there are a few dinosaur bones, still half buried in the rock, that you’re encouraged to reach out and touch. So I touched a dinosaur, a creature who died around 100 million years ago. What an experience!

There were lots of kids around, all super excited about dinosaurs and not paying attention to very much going on around them. I was more aware of my surroundings and not bumping into strangers, but I was probably just as excited and giddy about being here as they were. Even as a writer, I’m having trouble putting the awesomeness of this experience into words. If you’ve ever had the slightest interest in dinosaurs, you should come to see this place for yourself.

While nerding out on dinosaur bones was the primary reason for my trip, I had a second purpose as well. Honey Badger was here in May, and lost her phone. She’s since replaced it, but since I was already here anyway, it didn’t hurt to ask around and see if, by chance, more than two months later, it might still be here if someone found it and turned it in.

I talked to the ranger at the quarry visitor center about it. He said they do have phones turned in from time to time, but he didn’t know how long they kept them. He went out back to take a look. A while later he came back and asked me to describe the phone. I gave him the description Honey Badger gave me — a black Motorola, in a black case with a clip on it, and the Motorola logo was black rather than the standard gray. He went out back again, then came back with this.

It was her phone! Back in May, someone had found it down by the river at the campground and turned it in. The ranger told me I’d described the phone in such accurate detail that he was convinced that we had a match, and he was okay with giving it to me. This is why I’d grilled Honey Badger for these details before I went. I know how law enforcement investigates these things. He already knew the answers to the questions he asked me. He was testing me to see if I’d give him the same answers to make sure I was legitimate. That’s just good police work. I didn’t expect him to just give a phone to a random stranger. I gave him more than what he was looking for, and that convinced him.

We did a little paperwork. There’s bureaucracy in any government organization, but they have to keep track of these things, cross the I’s and dot the T’s. He got some info from me, and then sent me away with Honey Badger’s phone. Neither of us could believe this had actually worked, but here it was!

Back at the van, I plugged it in to see if it would take a charge. It did. She told me her passcode, and I successfully unlocked it. Not only is it definitely hers, but it even still works! I’ll give it back to her when I see her again, and now she’ll have a backup phone, which she may need sooner rather than later because her replacement phone is acting up.

I guess I succeeded in digging for some more recent fossils myself.

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