Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Who digs trilobites? We do!

This summer we're applying ourselves to enjoying as many Utah natural wonders as possible, and we're off to a strong start!  A couple of weeks ago we decided to try out U-Dig Fossils, a trilobite fossil quarry about 60 miles west of Delta, Utah.  Directions:  drive 2 hours to the middle of nowhere, keep on driving for another hour, and you're there!

The trilobite quarry was exactly what it promised to be - a giant pile of shale that was under the ocean 200 million years ago and when sea bugs died they got trapped in the sediment layers.  It is now a giant pile of shale in the aforementioned middle of nowhere where those trapped sea bugs are now rocks.

We discovered that there are two basic techniques to trilobite hunting:

  1. Grab a hammer and start whacking rocks
  2. Don't bother with the hammer and just turn rocks over until you find something
Both are effective, you'll just want to choose the method that best matches your current aggression level.

Sam shows off his rock-whacking skills
Sasha lugs around her bucket of treasures, mostly obtained by turning over rocks with a few whacks thrown in for good measure 

We had a good-natured family contest to see who could find the biggest trilobite and for a long time it looked like Sasha would be the winner - she was amazing at just looking down and finding those trilobites staring up at her!  And she was very, very excited to bring all of her "pet bugs" home, although she was admittedly confused by our answers to her questions of when they would come back to life again (i.e., "Never, they're rocks now").

WanYing, on the other hand, was more concerned with staying warm (hence the layers) and stuffing as many Clif Bars into her mouth as possible.  Fortunately, entrance for small children was free.
But at the end of the day, it was Ben who found the biggest trilobite of the trip.  It is about two inches long and quite the magnificent specimen.  The guys at U-Dig helped him clean it up and even gave him a fancy bag to keep it in.  And, yes, he proudly showed it to every person he met for several weeks.

Not bad for a day's work in fossil-land!  Honestly, we had a great time in the middle of nowhere smacking apart rocks for a few hours to liberate the captive rock-bugs within.  The carsick kids both on the way there and home dampened our enthusiasm a little (ugh) but nothing that a carpet cleaner and baths for all couldn't take care of!

I highly recommend U-Dig Fossils for a fun, unique family outing. Go for it, you won't be disappointed.  And everybody needs more hard-fought treasures to collect dust on their kids' shelves!

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