Please note - the expedition referenced is no longer running.
Kathy Santos, Earthwatch US webmaster
I'm in the exceedingly small town of Green River, Utah, with 10 Earthwatch volunteers, and we'll soon be digging in the desert for the fossilized bones of Falcarius utahensis, a rather strange beast from the Cretaceous period. According to Jim Kirkland, Utah State Paleontologist and our Principal Investigator (PI), this dinosaur appears to be in the process of evolving from a carnivore to an herbivore, making it a strange amalgam of features - more on that later.
I flew out from Boston yesterday and stayed at the Anton Boxrud B&B in Salt Lake - odd name, great place. Our team met at the Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City today, and I arrived early and got a chance to see some of the work being done there on dinosaur fossils.
Once we'd all gathered, Jim and Lindsay Zanna, co-PI, gave us an introduction to the history of dinosaurs in Utah, and we got to see the Museum's collection, including their Falcarius skeleton. Then we set out for Green River, getting a running commentary from Jim on the geologic history we could see in the mountains around us. The shorelines of ancient seas were clearly delineated in the bands on the mountain sides, some of which included visible coal seams.
We stopped at the Prehistoric Museum in Price to stretch our legs and see more dinosaur skeletons, as well as some great cast dinosaur sculptures, and arrived in Green River in time for dinner.
The town grew up around the best place to ford the Green River. It's noted for its melon-growing - they even have a melon festival in September! Other than that, the town seems to exist as a place for rockhounds, long-distance truckers, and river rafters and kayakers - it's got a few motels, an RV park and campground, a laundromat and 2 restaurants. The nearest pharmacy is 40 miles away. But the motel rooms are fine, the pool is open, and we're eating at the Westwinds restaurant next door, so all the basics are covered.
We hit the Westwinds for breakfast, then were on our way by 8AM... at least, that was the plan. But a few people were late, and one had to be woken up at 8:15 (I won't say who :). This is our day for a tour of the geology and naturul history of the area, with a little prospecting thrown in.
First stop is an overlook with a view across the "ocean" - you can clearly see where the ancient shorelines were, by the lines on the cliffs. Jim explains which geologic formations contain which era of dinosaurs, and what type of dinosaurs of that era have been found in Utah.
We then head off to see some ancient pictographs (paintings) and petroglyphs (carvings) in a nearby canyon, some of which are thought to be Anasazi. There are images of mountain goats and a beaver, as well as many paintings of people with elaborate headdresses.
Next we visit a site where our PI has previously found fossils. He shows us the layers of geologic time in more detail as we walk up and down hills, and we find a few bone fragments, but no identifiable partial or complete bones.
For our lunch stop we drive down something that most people would not consider a road, at one point going through a small wash with a little water in it. Us folks in the last row of the 12 passenger van got a ride you'd pay good money for at an amusement park!
Almost everyone found a fossil just lying on the ground here. Most of them were teeth from some sort of crocadilain and a possibly-unknown carnisaur. There were also quarter-size armor plating from a polacanthine ankylosaur - again possibly a not-yet identified one.
As Utah State Paleontologist, Jim has a statewide permit to collect fossils that don't require excavation, so he kept these.
Then we head towards Moab, to get water from a natural spring - it's a beautiful area, and the water is MUCH better than we get from the tap at the hotel, so we all filled our water bottles.
Last stop is a rock shop in Moab, and just like the sign says, we see all sorts of fossils, minerals, crystals, gemstones and rocks. There is also an assortment of old mine cars and kerosene lanterns.
They have some impressive fossils, all of which were theoretically either legally imported or found on private property, as it's illegal to collect from state or federal land. Caroline and I buy peach-sized geodes, and the proprietor cracks them in half for us with a chain pipe wrench, revealing beautiful crystals in every one.
We head back to Green River about 7PM, tired and hungry, but excited about what we saw and found, and ready to start work tomorrow.
Today we're on the road just after 8AM. It's cloudy and pleasant out, but there's a threat of thunderstorms this afternoon.
We make a quick stop at Crystal Geyser, which is on the way. This is a large cold water geyser which is powered by carbon dioxide leached from the minerals underground. Someone looking for oil drilled a hole into the underground reservoir, and it's been erupting ever since.
It's just burbling quietly at the moment, so we head on up to the site. They've been working on the road, but it's still pretty rough, and it goes through several washes which fill with water when it rains - they're all dry at the moment, though.
Just before we get there, we get stuck and have to back out, add and subtract some rocks and try again. This time we make it.
Jim's assistants have a camp set up below the site, where they live while on the dig. We stop there and get boxes of tools - paint brushes, an ice pick and a straw. Jim shows us casts of the bones they've found so we have some idea what we're looking for.
Then we hike up to the site itself. It's not a long hike, but it involves one rocky hill and one sandy one, both of which you have to scramble up while carrying 4 liters of water and whatever else you brought.
At the site, we sit on the ground while Jim gives us instructions. People find bits of bone all around - Barbara finds a knuckle. We go under the tarps (we'll need the shade when it's not so cloudy) and see the real site for the first time. It's a wall of dirt and stone about 5 feet high and 15 feet long. There are bones that have been partially excavated and wrapped in plaster, and other ones that are covered with aluminum foil.
Jim shows us how to use the paint brush to sweep the dust and pebbles into a scoop, keeping watch for fossils, including tiny teeth. We spread out along the wall - and hear thunder. A storm is moving in, and we have to leave, first because we're in a very exposed spot, and second because we need to get past the washes before they fill and become impassible -there's not enough food or room in the tents for all of us to spend the night.
So we quickly grab our packs and head back down to the van. The place we got stuck is fortunately easier in this direction, and we don't have any problems on the road - we see rain in the distance, but none hits us, and the washes are still empty.
Jim stops at Crystal Geyser again, since we have plenty of time now, and we all get out to explore. And we're in luck - the geyser, which only erupts every 14 - 16 hours, puts on a show for us! It erupts for over half and hour, and some hardy souls let it cascade over them.
This place is magical! Spreading out from the geyser are waves of minerals which are brought up with the water and solidify in orange sheets as the water heads down to the river. We're the only ones here, there are no walkways or "Do Not..." signs, and we climb around and take photos and play in the river. When the sun comes out, the water on the sheets of minerals sparkles and dances.
We finally head back to the motel - but only to grab bathing suits and come back to swim in the river at a spot next to the geyser. By the time we get back, the geyser has gone quiet, but the river is cool and relaxing. Jim shows us some incredible tavertine rocks he found in the mud.
Once again, we're chased out of the site by rain after only a couple hours - but we did find one Falcarius claw.
Fortunately, Jim has contigency plans, and we end up having another great day. First stop, the Museum of Western Colorado's Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita, Colorado, where Jim used to work. They have great exhibits, including animatronic dinosaurs and lots of skeletons and bones. They also have an excellent gift shop, with a variety of dino toys, models, books and Tshirts. I bought a Tshirt with a picture of Fruitafossor windscheffeli on it - the dinosaur that was named after an Earthwatch volunteer!
After that, we hit the mall, as one of Ken's shoes desoled itself in the acidic water of Crystal Geyser, and he needed a new pair. Several of us mob the ice cream stand.
Our next stop is the amazing casting studio of Gaston Design, where Robert Gaston and Jennifer Schellenbach make molds of fossils and then make incredibly detailed casts of them. Robert even has a dinosaur named after him - a Polacanthine Ankylosaur named Gastonia burgei.
They're kind enough to explain the whole restoration, casting and molding process to us and show us all of their works in progress. They also have a great assortment of both fossils and casts to look at, including a cast of a 6' long Apatosaurus femur that has tooth and claw marks visible on it, as well as broken-off Theropod teeth embedded in it! This animal stood about 18 feet tall at the hip.
Hopefully tomorrow we'll actually dig up some dinosaur bones ourselves - although the weather forecast is not promising at the moment. Everyone agrees that this is very unusual weather for this time of year - but the melon growers are loving it.
This animated monster blinked, moved his head, spit water and drooled, to the delight of the kids in the museum.
Finally, an entire day working onsite! It dawns clear and bright, and although storm clouds slowly build in the distance as the day wears on, none threaten our site or the drainage we drive through.
It's already fairly hot when we arrive and climb to the site, but the sky is an incredible bright blue, and you can see rock formations and mesas for miles in all directions, with just a few puffy clouds.
The excavation itself is a U-shaped ditch about 6 feet deep, 15 feet in length and 3 feet wide, with tarps over it to give much-needed shade.
The U's center is taken up by the original "spoils" pile - when this site was originally worked by illegal fossil hunters, they threw anything that wasn't an easily recognized, intact fossil into a 5 foot high pile of dirt and rock. This spoils pile is rich in fossils, but some have been damaged by their treatment, and the valuable information about their position and location has been lost.
We work in three areas. Ken and Barbara remove overburden at one end of the ditch - there's about 2 feet of soil on top of the fossil layer that still needs to be removed there. Linda works her way through the spoils pile, finding many partial bones and bone impressions in the rocks. Liz, Kelly and Chris join her in the afternoon.
The rest of us choose a spot along the already-in-progress excavation, and slowly and carefully remove the sand, pebbles and rock with a small pick, a paintbrush and a straw (to blow sand off possible fossils). It's laborious work, requiring patience, concentration and a strong back, as you sit, kneel or stand over your spot.
When you find a piece of bone, you immediately cover it with glue using a plastic pipette, as much of the bone is very fragile. Then you carefully excavate around it, gluing as you go.
Jennifer maps the larger bones, giving each a number, then measuring their position against a grid of nails placed at precise intervals around the dig. She also draws a picture of the fossil on a grid. When the fossil is finally removed, it is wrapped in toilet paper and bagged with a label.
Larger fossils are covered with plaster as they are exposed, so that they won't be harmed during storms or subsequent digging. There are several fossils in this state currently, including a femur that protrudes almost vertically. This will be there for a while, as other smaller fossils have to be removed around it.
We initially spend a lot of time asking Jen, Simon, Judy or Jim "is this a fossil?" We find a lot of pretty rocks before we start understanding what might be a bone or contain a bone.
The larger rocks in the spoils pile are checked for surface bone; if none show, they are broken open with a rock hammer along an existing crack to look for fossils inside. Simon demonstrates, then turns the hammer over to Caroline and Liz, who both get quite proficient at rock-breaking.
By 4PM, when we start to pack up, we've made a lot of progress - Ken and Barbara have removed a large area of overburden, Linda, Liz, Kelly and Chris have made quite a dent in the spoils pile, and Ron, Caroline, Brenda, Jim and I have all made progress on the excavation itself, finding many new fossils.
Simon is going to Salt Lake for a few days, and Jen and Judy are coming back to town with us, so we all pitch in to take down the shade tarps - in a high wind, the poles holding the tarps up could destroy the fossils. Then we cover the site for the night.
It's a hot walk back to the truck - this is the peak temperature time on the desert - my thermometer says 97F - but it's almost all downhill, and we aren't carrying water, which helps considerably. We pile into the van for the long, bumpy ride back.
Some people opt for a swim in the Green River; we drop them off at Crystal Geyser, then go back to the hotel, where Jim drops the rest of us off and goes back to join the swimmers.
All-in-all, another great day!
Today is another good day at the site. Brenda finds a tiny tooth, which pleased Jim immensely, and several other volunteers also have good finds.
We're also finding that there is wildlife in the area. Something gets into the cantalope we left overnight - probably a rodent. And we see a couple extremely small scorpions, as well as two different kinds of lizards.
But the storm clouds keep building after lunch, and then about 3:30 the wind picks up suddenly. Since Simon is gone, Jen and Judy need help closing up, and a mad rush ensues to get the tarps down and the site covered, and get back to the van before the rain starts.
The race is won - the first drops hit the van as it pulls out. No swimming in the river tonight, though.
It continues to rain until after 6PM, then clears to a spectacular sunset, followed by an almost-full moon with a few scudding clouds. The temperature drops to a refreshing 65F - too bad we can't work the site at night - it's beautiful out!
Today's the last day we'll be digging with Jim and Judy. They go back to Salt Lake City tomorrow afternoon, and Lindsay, our co-PI, comes down for the next week.
Last night we gave Jim a Tshirt that Caroline designed - on the front is a Falcarius holding a carrot, next to the words "Got veggies?" We all signed it.
Today starts out with a visit to the other site being worked in this area. Most of the team opt to make the climb; the rest of us explore the area below the site, and find many small pieces of bone, mixed in with the numerous different kinds of rocks that litter the desert floor. The team returns and reports that there are lots of big bones up there, in various stages of being uncovered, including a femur that will weigh over 100 pounds when it is jacketed with plaster for transport.
Then we head over to our site, where Jen and Judy have uncovered the dig and erected the shade tarps already. Today turns out to be a great day, by Jim's reckoning. We, of course, like to find big things, but he's thrilled when Brenda finds a tiny tooth. Then Jim himself discovers what he thinks may be a shoulder bone from a juvenile Falcarius. It's thin, tiny bone in several pieces, but he works at it patiently for most of the afternoon, when he's not helping us.
The rest of us keep working on our areas and the spoils pile, and continue to discover bones. We find several pieces of long bones (femurs or humeruses) which have been totally hollowed out and the center partially filled with crystals, like geodes. They're no good for paleontology, but they're very interesting.
I take a short hike onto the mesa above the site, and take a photo of the tarps with the mountains behind - it's obvious from this angle that we're digging in the side of the hill - the tarps are even with the mesa top.
At the end of the day, we flip the tarps over onto the mesa and head down. There's a rainstorm coming, and it's being preceded by a dust storm. The hills in the distance disappear in a brown haze. By the time we reach the hotel, it's raining.
Today is our free day, but we did all the things Jim had planned for today on our rain days. But someone had the brilliant idea of going on a raft trip, so Jim made us reservations for a day trip down the Green River.
Jim drops us off at Holiday Expeditions in Green River at 9AM and we buy croakies (the things you hold your glasses on with) and waterproof cameras. The trip is $40 each, including lunch. Jim, Jen and Judy will spend the day at the site, working.
Rick, our guide, gives us a short safety briefing, and we set out - in a van just like the one Jim's been bouncing us through the desert in! But the dirt road we go down is in great shape, and the driver slows way down for the couple bad sections, and apologizes for the bumps. We laugh and tell him about the road to the site.
At the put-in, we don life jackets and grab paddles. Eight people fit in the raft, two go in "duckies" - inflatable kayaks. Caroline and I opt for the kayaks, and we get helmets. Then we're off down the river.
It's breathtakingly beautiful - the sky is bright blue, the hills on either side of the river are rocky and multi-colored, and we see many great blue herons flying low over the water. The duckies are great - you sit in the bottom and lean back against an inflated cushion - and they're incredibly maneuverable. Caroline and I spin in circles, splash each other and the rafters, and bob through the small rapids.
Rick is great - patient, easy-going, and very knowledgeable about the river and the area. He's been guiding on the river for 5 summers, and says it's a wonderful job. He has the rafters paddle just enough to feel like they're doing something, but we spend a lot of time just going with the current. He steers the raft from the stern with a paddle, and puts it in the right place for each rapid. The duckies follow behind.
There are several places where Rick lets us jump out and swim. The water is brown and opaque from silt, but clean and not too cold. Just about everyone takes a dip at some point. Getting back into the duckies takes some wiggling, and reentering the raft requires help from those onboard, who grab you by the life jacket and pull you into the boat, where you land in a tangle of laps and oars.
We stop on a small, sandy beach for lunch. Rick must think we're nuts - we all exclaim over the wonderful food, as he cuts up oranges and apples, then makes a Caesar salad with chicken to go in wraps. He also has peanut butter, jelly and honey, and chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Gourmet food after the ham and cheese sandwiches and chips we've been getting in our bag lunches.
After lunch we swap places, and I give up the duckie to Ron as we head on down the river. We spot a deer on the far bank, standing at the edge of the river watching us. It has big ears - probably a mule deer. Squirrels dart along the rocks, but we don't see any big horn sheep on the hills above, although Rick assures us they're not an uncommon sight.
We splash, swim and float leisurely along, listening to invisible birds sing along the banks, and after one last small-but-fun rapid, we arrive at the takeout point. Rick supervises loading the raft onto the trailer, deflating and stowing the duckies, and then drives us back to hotel. We pile out just as Jim, Jen and Judy arrive - Jen will stay at the motel tonight and go back with us tomorrow.
We're all happy, tired, wet and sandy, and after telling a few river tales, head for our rooms and showers. Another wonderful day in Utah - but I'll need some aspirin for my aching kayaking muscles.
A little excitement to start our day - one person gets locked out of their room, but they get in eventually and we head for the site a little late.
Although the forecast just says partly cloudy, it's pretty dark on the horizon, and there's a lot of cloud cover. We're not sure as we head out how long we'll get to stay on the site, if at all.
And this is Lindsay's first try at driving the huge, 2-wheel-drive van out to the site. But she does fine, getting us over even the last, really bad spot, with no trouble. She obviously knows the road very well.
When we get up to the site, the weather still doesn't look too promising - at first, we don't even bother putting up the shade tarps. But some sun breaks through and we eventually need them.
Simon shows up, back from a couple days off, just in time to help us put up the tarps. We've missed him - he has a great, very quirky sense of humor.
Lindsay takes a look at each of our areas and makes suggestions on what to do next, and what's worth saving. A couple of the bones I've been working around and gluing turn out to be incomplete and badly shattered - not worth keeping. But there's no way to know until you've worked all the way around them.
It's a pleasant day to work the site. The cloud cover has kept the temperature below 90F, and the breeze is constant. Matt finds his fourth claw in the spoils pile, and Ron has a beautiful long bone in a few pieces. We keep Jen busy mapping finds, and she starts teaching Caroline so she'll have some help.
The clouds continue to threaten all day, and it's clear that it's raining in one area, but Simon says that the washes we need to cross don't get drainage from there, so we're still ok. But one of us checks the horizon every few minutes.
Finally, at about 3PM, the wind gets very strong and we start feeling raindrops. We're getting sandblasted anyway, so we pack up and head out. Fortunately, Caroline made the wise suggestion earlier to take down the tarps before it got too bad, so we aren't fighting them in the wind. They're like big sails -Jim nearly got blown over taking one down the other day.
Of course, by the time we hike out and pile into the van, the weather has started to improve, but we're all tired and gritty, and we head out.
Back at the motel, everyone immediately heads for their rooms to shower. I'm especially looking forward to getting some warm water on my sore kayaking shoulders.
I didn't go up to the dig today; I had some work to do. That's the downside of going on an Earthwatch expedition as an Earthwatch employee - I'm actually expected to accomplish something from time to time. The good news, of course, is that they pay my way!
But it isn't all work today - at lunchtime I take a walk and visit the John Wesley Powell River History Museum on the bank of the Green River. This small but interesting museum celebrates the exploration of the Green and Columbia Rivers by... you guessed it - John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran and self-taught geologist and archeologist, who made it down the rivers and through the Grand Canyon with a small band of explorers and three wooden boats.
All but 3 men survived the voyage. Those 3 decided one particular rapid looked too dangerous, so they opted to climb the cliffs and walk out. The were never seen again. The rapids they so feared turned out to not be as bad as they looked, and the rest of the group ran them with no problem.
The museum includes a theater which shows a 20 minute film of the adventure, a gallery showcasing local artists, and exhibits on the natural history and early settlements of the region. The gift shop is great - beautiful postcards and lots of books, maps, videos, souvenirs and tshirts.
Walking back over the river, I watch some swallows swooping over the water and harrying ravens out of their territory. Sunflowers grow wild in vacant lots, and behind the town loom the Book Cliffs.
Later in the day, I walk the other direction through the town of Green River. From the look of the architecture and signs, the town's heyday was in the 60's. In 1961, the Utah Launch Complex of White Sands Missile Range opened a few miles outside of Green River. From this facility the government fired test missiles, which were supposed to land at White Sands in New Mexico (at least one went into Mexico instead). The complex closed in 1974.
There's a very pleasant, shady park in the center of town which is graced by a large model of a missile. Further along the main street is Ray's Tavern, which Jim tells us has excellent hamburgers, and the Green River Coffee Company, a wonderful, funky little café serving coffee, espresso and ice cream. The place is decorated in 60's modern, including a cabinet TV and a chrome and formica kitchen table. At the back are 2 semi-circular, red velvet sofas. I have a coffee malt, made with vanilla ice cream and a shot of espresso - it's sublime, especially after the hot walk.
At dinner, I hear that everyone had a good day at the site - Ken and Liz in particular both had good finds, and Lindsay is pleased with the amount we are accomplishing.
We're all getting pretty used to the drill: fill our water bottles, grab our lunch, pile in the van, bounce for 12 miles out to the camp, climb to the dig site, help set up the shade tarps and go to work.
Thunderstorms appear on the horizon every day; we keep an eye on them, but they usually wait until late afternoon to threaten us.
The dinosaur we're primarily digging up is very interesting in a number of ways. It's a therizinosaur, but unlike any other found to date. For one, it has what may be a more recent relative in China, Beipiaosaurus, which might mean that it migrated from North American through Europe to Asia - most animals went the other way.
Then there is the evidence of its becoming herbivorous. Jim says that the pelvis is becoming wider, which usually happens because an animal needs a bigger gut to digest plant material. Also, the teeth are leaf-shaped, another adaptation for eating vegetation.
Another mystery is why so many of these dinosaurs of all ages and sizes died in this one place. One theory is that there was a water source that somehow became toxic.
We're starting to understand which bones are the most useful to the paleontologists. Long bones like leg bones are very useful if they have ends on them, as the ends provide information about the bone's position and the animal's gait. The bone shaft itself is not as helpful - which is OK with me, as I have one shaft piece that crumbles to nothingness when I try to extract it.
Skulls are a real prize, as they give hints as to brain size, jaw shape and use, eye position, olifactory abilities and much more. Liz has found what may be a skull; it gets a coat of plaster before removal.
Of course, any bone that is fragile or they have few or no samples of, is also highly valued and carefully collected. My best find is a fairly complete caudal, or tail bone, about 3 inches long.
Today we once again leave a little earlier than Lindsay would like, as the storm clouds move in. We're looking forward to tomorrow - a contractor has volunteered to improve the worst parts of the road for us; we'd love a smoother ride.
We arrive on site to find that the contractor, Don from Ames Construction, has already parked his trailer, gotten his Bobcat and ATV down and started work.
He's going to using the blade on the Bobcat the smooth some spots and remove rocks on the way in, then switch the blade for a pneumatic jackhammer that fits on the front of the Bobcat. The rest of the crew heads up to the site, but I want to watch the roadwork.
It's amazing what the jackhammer can do. Don lines it up on a rock, then lowers the jackhammer until the Bobcat is right up off its front wheels, putting all the weight of man and machine to work. When he starts the jackhammer up, its vibrations easily break the rocks.
He takes care of the 3 stone ledges at the end of the road in less than 15 minutes - work that would have taken at least a day with grad students and sledgehammers (I'm learning about the lives of grad students, too :).
Then he heads back out the road, breaking all the oil pan killers and tire chewers. Once he's hammered all the rocks into submission, he puts the blade back on the goes back over the road, moving rocks and filling in with dirt where needed. When he's done, it actually looks like a road, instead of something out of the old West.
Don starts back out - he has a few more spots he wants to work on. He mentions that the storm is definitely headed our way, so I call up to the site and tell Lindsay. Pretty soon I see the crew heading down. They ooh and aah over the road improvements and we head out.
Partway back, we see Don on the road. He's worried about one sandy, hilly spot that he worked on, that's pretty soft now. So he stands by while Lindsay tries to get up it. We bog down. So she backs down, we get out, and she tries again - success! Everyone's happy as we continue on our way... until Lindsay realizes that the brakes on the van aren't working.
We stop, and she and I get out and look under the van. We can see brake fluid dripping right next to the right front brake cylinder. It's too sand-covered to see exactly where the leak is, but it's clear we won't be driving this van out - we have some very windy, hilly road still to cover, with sharp dropoffs and no guardrails.
Don is still there, and he gives Lindsay a ride back to camp to pick up the SUV that's parked there. She then has to make two trips to get us all back to the motel. She's pretty beat by the time we're all safely back - and she still has to deal with towing and fixing the van, and finding us alternate transportation.
More photos coming soon!
We've split up into two groups this morning to get ferried to the site, but it rained up there last night, and the weather is not looking good now. It's our last day in the field, though, so we decide to give it a try.
We head out in the SUV, and find that parts of the road are wet and there's water in the wash, though not a lot. We make it through, but the weather continues to deteriorate, and we know there are spots further on where the road is clay, and very slippery when wet. We finally turn around and head back - no site work this morning.
When Ken and Barbara realize we've had our last work day, they decide to head home. They drove from their home in California, so this gives them a little extra time going back.
Lindsay still has to take me to Grand Junction, Colorado, over 100 miles away, to pick up a rental van so we can get everyone and their luggage back to Salt Lake tomorrow. Liz and Caroline decide to join her for the ride, and we head out. The others are doing laundry, sleeping, or exploring Green River.
After dropping me off at the airport, they head back. I pick up a comfy green van with sliding doors on both sides and head back. But wait - what's that on my map? Arches National Park is only 40 miles out of my way. So I take a little side trip and see some incredible scenery. Definitely something for future volunteers to consider doing on a free day, or before or after the expedition.
Everyone's at dinner when I get back. Lindsay has to go back to Salt Lake tonight, and we'll be driving up in two vehicles tomorrow, so we won't have much more time together.
We're all up and ready to go at 7AM. Liz has an early flight, and all of us are a little worried about the time it may take to get through airport security.
The drive up is uneventful, although I'm amazed at how much the highway winds to get through the hills. We arrive at Jim's lab at the Utah Geologic Survey at about 10:30, and the SUV with the rest of the gang shows up shortly after.
Jim, Judy and Lindsay are there to greet us, and they give us a very interesting tour of the work they're currently doing in their small lab. Jen is preparing a section of iguanadon tail, while Judy is trying to finish several smaller fossils. There's also a skull being carefully removed from rock; this is a previously-unknown dinosaur that Jim and Don will be presenting this fall.
Then it's goodbye time - I have to get the van back to the airport before 1PM. Fortunately, Jen has made sure that everyone has updated email addresses, so we can keep in touch.
It's been a great 2 weeks with a great group of people, and I have over a thousand photos, some souvenirs, a great tan (despite SPF 45 sunblock), and a lot of sand in my suitcase to help me remember my first Earthwatch expedition.