Monday, July 13, 2009

Road Trip - On The Dinosaur Trail

The Dinosaur Trail in Montana consists of a group of fifteen museums, seven of which are along the Hi-Line (highway 2, running along the northern edge of Montana), and all of which display dinosaur skeletons, and fossils. Many are located near the actual dig sights, where the bones were, and are still, being discovered. Since several of the children are quite into dinosaurs, it sounded like fun. So, this weekend, we headed out to the flat lands of Montana's eastern side.

Our first stop was The Old Trail Museum, in Choteau. It's a rustic sort of pioneer museum, filled with settler, Native American, and grizzly bear displays. Of course, they also have a dinosaur room, which features fossils, and bones from the Two Medicines formation, and it does have an interesting prep-lab display. The displays were a little less informative than we would have liked, and there was a fee to get in, but the children enjoyed the dinosaur statues outside. And, since it was Saturday, we caught the farmer's market, set up right next to the museum, where we were able to buy some bread, and blueberries from local Hutterites.

Continuing north along the Rocky Mountain Front, crisscrossing the Lewis and Clark trail as we went, we arrived at our second stop, the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center, in Bynum. The fee there was quite steep, especially considering the main display was a Styrofoam model of a Siesmosaurus halli (earth shaker lizard), copied from a few bones found, not in Montana, but in New Mexico. There was a very nice rock shop across the parking lot, though, where we were able to see, and touch what the shop keeper assured us were real dinosaur bones, found in the surrounding area. He even gave our children each a free, fossilized sand dollar, as a souvenir.

Finally reaching the Hi-Line, we came to our third stop, the Rudyard Depot Museum, in Rudyard. It didn't look like much from the outside, but turned out to be an excellent museum, filled with actual bones, and with informative volunteers, who could tell us exactly which bones on the skeletons were real, and which were fake. They had beautiful displays of the dinosaurs, at various stages of growth, as well as pictures of the dig sight that they came from.
The signature display of the museum is a fully articulated Gryposaurus, billed as the "Oldest Sorehead". We thought maybe that was the Sorehead mentioned on the town's highway sign which reads, "Rudyard, 596 nice people - 1 Old Sorehead!". We were informed however, that the town does have an actual Sorehead (appointed by election - a great honor). So the town has a Sorehead, currently the grandson of the original Sorehead, and a dinosaur - the Oldest Sorehead.

The Depot Museum was free, or rather a by donation fee set up. The couple looking after the museum were friendly, and well versed in local dinosaur facts. They gave each of our children a free piece of dinosaur bone for a souvenir, listened politely to our talkative four year old, as she chattered randomly about anything that came to mind, and they even offered to run to their house to fetch cleaning supplies when our youngest son threw up in the van as we were getting ready to leave.

We had planned to visit two other museums, one in Havre, and one in Chinook, but the exhaustion induced vomit, brought our dinosaur adventure to an end. A little rest, a little shade, and a few cool drinks of water, and everyone was fine again, but the consensus was we had seen enough of the dinosaur trail for one trip.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Marcee said...

Nothing like vomit to end a great day!!! Poor little baby!

Nikki N said...

I have just stumbled across your blog, and I am finding myself going back through all of your old posts. They are very informative and fun. I wanted to suggest you visit the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, MT if you ever make it back this way! It is THE place to go if you have dinosaur lovers!! Well worth the money to get in.....Nikki