Sunday, December 28, 2014

Dinosaur Valley SP

RDB and I woke to beautiful blue skies the Sunday of our after-Christmas-camping trip and drove over to Glen Rose for lunch and a visit to the Dinosaur Valley State Park.  If you were to ask me which, if any, state parks we visited as a family when I was growing up, this would probably be the only one I could name - with its close proximity to the overnight camp we each attended as kids, Mom would add this on as part of the adventure.  And as little kids, there was not much cooler than splashing around in the river and searching for dinosaur tracks.  

Headquarters at this park contains a mini exhibit on the tracks you'll see in the Paluxy river.  Dinosaur tracks were found in 1909 (after a major flood came thru the area the year before) and the park opened to the public in 1972 with the mission to preserve the tracks and provide the public a place to learn about them.  I couldn't help but feel a little giddy walking around and getting our entry permit and trail maps - there was something so nostalgic about being back at this park after so many years. 

Just down the road from park headquarters is the gift shop and the life-sized dinosaur models.  We learned that these two dinos were originally crafted for the 1964-65 New York World's Fair as part of the "Sinclair Dinoland."  There's actually a neat video of the exhibit and a bit more info on Sinclair Oil Co's sponsorship of the Fair over at Roadside America. (Start the video at 9:20 if you want to jump past all the 'commercial' stuff for Sinclair and go straight to Dinoland.)  If you take a moment to read the plaques nearby these two mammoth sculptures, you'll also learn that the brontosaurus's head is inaccurate.  Actually, once that bit of scientific fact was discovered in the late '80s, TPWD changed the head on the model to accurately depict that of the actual dinosaur.  Problem was, it looked like a 'pinhead' and was so poorly received by the public, that in the mid '90s, they changed it back to the original Sinclair version.  Their explanation?  "By the 1990's the park recognized that the Sinclair models had become pieces of history in their own right and in 1995 decided to restore the models to the way they looked at the 1965 World's Fair." Go figure!

We did a little shopping in the gift shop (gotta love that my park pass gives me a 10% discount!) and them made our way down to the river to see the main attraction: real 'live' dinosaur tracks!

The tracks are located on the opposing bank of the river, (green arrow in the picture bottom right above) so you have to use the stepping stones to get across.  The weather was just beautiful on Sunday, so we didn't mind the hike to cross the river and see the tracks.  It's funny - when you return to a place you visited so many times as a kid the things you remember: I can remember the parking lot, but not the treacherously steep steps to get down to the river.  I can remember playing in the water all afternoon, but don't recall how shallow it seemed to be (and so clear!).  I remember seeing the tracks, but don't recall how small they really are.

What I remember most is how much fun we had as a family on those trips to Glen Rose and Dino Valley.  How perfect everything seemed to be on those sunny summer days.  I couldn't help but reach out to Mom and say thanks.  Where we didn't have cell reception at Cleburne SP, we did here, so I texted her.

Me: At Dino Valley SP. Scores of wonderful childhood memories running thru my heart like the crystal clear waters over the tracks. Thank you. You did good Momma, so very good for us kiddos.

Mom: Just loved you, loved life, and wanted you to love it too!

Me: Its making me cry. I had forgotten how much sweetness there was when we were little. I hope to give my kids half of what you gave us, and their little hearts should be more than full.

Mom: Really, nothing compared to being your (all of your) momma. Most satisfying and rewarding thing I've done. You were beautiful sweet smart good kids and have become extraordinary adults - which was my dream

We spent the better part of a few hours at the park - walking the trials, taking photos, drinking in the wonder of the day.  I so greatly enjoy that RDB and I have carved out this part of our lives together - that we're putting in place a habit of adventure and travel, unplugging and visiting the natural spaces around us.  I dream about what fun it will be when we have kids of our own to join us on these travels.  Someday, we'll bring them here - where they can learn about dinosaurs and splash in the cool water and create sweet memories of their own.  And if in the distant future someone asks them, What parks did your family visit when you were growing up? May they answer: So many, I can't remember!

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