“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real, too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” ~Stephen King
We left the Worland RV Park, gassed up, got some foam strip from a local hardware store to beef up the foam on the inside rim of the tool box to keep road dust out, dropped some postcards at the post office, and headed to Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracks outside of Greybull, Wyoming and on BLM land.
What a cool place! The tracks were discovered in 1997 by some hikers in the area. The first thing they noticed were the ripples of fossilized sand from an ancient beach. They notified someone at BLM and the paleontologists they called were thrilled—for lots of reasons. These tracks are in a wide area and tell them things about how dinosaurs move, their overall size and weight, that (these ones at least) likely traveled in social groups of different sizes, and more. They were also able to date them as being about 167 million years old (by the fossil layer above), which adds critical information to the dinosaur timeline in the US.
There are so few North American fossil remains of dinosaurs from the Middle Jurassic that they don’t even know for sure what dinosaur made these tracks. It was some sort of three-toed Theropod that walked on two legs and ate meat, and that’s about all they know. These guys’ hips are estimated to be about as high as my ribcage and their stride was just at the limit of my stride. They walked at roughly 4mph across this sandy stretch.
167 million years ago, the Sundance Sea (located in the Ancient Big Horn Basin, which was actually closer to the equator back then, before the continents shifted, about where Cancun, Mexico is now, so very warm) dried up enough to leave algal, sandy edges which the dinosaurs walked through. When the water level rose again, the tracks were covered by silt and eventually hardened, preserving both the tracks and the sandy ripples in this wide area of rock dubbed The Ballroom by scientists, thereby conjuring up (for me at least) a group of waltzing dinosaurs.
Walking in your footsteps
Then the best thing of all—a personal highlight, for sure—was locating one Theropod’s track and walking in its footsteps from edge to edge, my footprints in his (or hers), shoes off so as not to damage the impressions in any way, but also to be as close to the ancient reptile as possible, while in my head, the deliciously haunting song “Walking in Your Footsteps” (The Police) played on.
There were also a bunch of ancient oyster shells and (I think) an ammonite or two in the surrounding earth and hills. The sign said that it was fine to collect a few specimens of the common gastropods (and they were everywhere) for a personal collection (no sales allowed), so we selected a few small specimens to add to my growing fossil collection at home.
After that, we drove back through some amazing vistas, came to The Greybull Motel and checked in, very comfy, and connected with a friend of Len’s (Mike Bentley) who has a large cattle/horse/goat/sheep ranch in the area. We had a great time catching up over dinner at a Mexican restaurant (once again, I ate too much—and it was only half the plate!) and then came back to the room to rest and relax.