It’s nearly dinnertime, and the runners and their support crew are nowhere to be found. The evening camp is set up, the cooks have arrived, the education team is here, but the runners are not. The culprit is believed to be a combination of fatigue and logistics, nothing catastrophic, though one can’t help but wonder exactly what happened. The lesson of the day for the students is about another disappearance. 66 million years ago a massive asteroid hit the earth, causing a dust cloud that blacked out the sun and very rapidly most of the dinosaurs on Earth were killed. Only one obscure group of dinosaurs survived, the ancestors of today’s birds. The flying ones, the swift ones; with that in mind, the runners finally ambled into camp. They may not have been as swift today, but they made it, and it was those resilient few who began the next great era in our run through time, the rise of the mammals.
A huge day for our Youth Ambassadors! This morning they joined palaeontologist Dr. Scott from the PBS hit show Dinosaur Train on an active dig site to help uncover a Gripasaurus while also answering questions from students following along on the live broadcast. When the running started, injury forced the team to make some tough group decisions, and eventually Steve decided to change his role (for now) into leadership. He jumped in enthusiastically helping the media team document the Expedition. The remaining Ambassadors made quick work of 30k ending the day at a stunning camp spot high in the Escalante at over 7500ft.
The lineup at dinnertime stretched past the washbasin, around the back of the expedition trailer, and down a sandy track to our fleet of outfits (those are trucks, for the uninitiated). Each person in the line is an expedition team member with a unique set of expertise. We have paleontologists, cooks, drivers, doctors, cowboys, and of course the runners leading the way, spooning corn and chili on boiled potatoes at the front of the line. It is fitting that we’re on land once dominated by another species in the midst of its most diverse era. At 75 million years old, the rock the runners crossed today represents an era when dinosaurs were their most prolific. They stood as tall as two-storey homes, ate meals that would feed most of the expedition team, and were present in such variety that when our ambassadors dug through this earth at the end of their run, they found fossils of 20 unique species in an area the size of a tennis court. But, there will be no desert for the dinosaurs. Their Swan Song ends tomorrow, when we visit rock that tells the tale of the great extinction that wiped out most of their species.
Another 33.2k is done, with the highlight of Day 3 being a steep climb up Flag Point, complete with a rock scramble, to study Dilophosaurus foot tracks preserved in stone. They worked with Dr. Allan to calculate the speed and size of the dinos, who could walk at 12k/hr. The adventure continued on the hike down when the youth encountered a startled rattle snake. After dinner, Cowboy Poet Hal Hamblin came out to entertain the entire crew with stories of the Wild West.