Friday, June 10, 2011

Dinosaurs and Crazy Ladies at Lake Powell

Oh how I wish that I could spare my children the experience of coming across unpleasant people, but the world is full of them, so I can't.

When we left Utah, and headed back into Arizona on our way to see the Grand Canyon, we decided to stop and spend a few days at Lake Powell. It looks like a place that would be twelve thousand degrees in the summer, in which case we probably would have kept on driving, but it was spring, and except for the wind, the weather was quite lovely and so was the lake, so we stopped.

The Visitor Center at Glen Canyon Dam was well worth a visit with gorgeous views and interesting exhibits about the history of the area, the dam, the river and the really cool rare dinosaur that was discovered near there a few years ago. The land in this area is now barren desert, but was once under the ocean, and is apparently a hotbed of action for paleontologists, rock hounds, fossil hunters and the like.

A few years back a group of scientists and volunteers was exploring nearby in southern Utah and one of the amateurs came across a bone during his break. It turned about to be a previously unknown dinosaur called Therizinosaur, also known as the sickle claw dinosaur. I suggested that the sickle claws were used for harvesting wheat, but apparently the experts feel that disemboweling dinner was a more likely use.

There is all sorts of mystery surrounding this creature such as what exactly it was, how it got to be there- a land animal in the middle of the ocean, how it died, etc. It was cool to see the replica of the skeleton, along with other fossils and footprints from nearby, and it gave us a great chance to think and talk about the way science is not ever really a finished deal. Humans are always learning and what is thought to be certain in one age can change with the next new discovery. It's all about educated guesses based on evidence, but as long as we keep exploring, we'll keep finding new evidence.

We decided to do some exploring of our own with some hikes near the lake before we found a camp site. The wind was something fierce, so we opted not to camp in the open lakeside area, but instead at an RV Park in the nearby town of Page. I wasn't thrilled at first as it was not very scenic, and was clearly not geared towards tent campers (we were the only ones there,) but at least the sites offered some shelter from the wind. I became a bigger fan of the place when we found the indoor heated pool and hot tub, and decided I could do with a second day of relaxing before moving on. We made use of the electrical plug in where I could charge my phone and laptop, the laundry and showers, and Boy Child was thrilled that we had an excellent tree to climb.

When we returned from a wildflower hike, a look at the beautiful horseshoe bend in the Colorado River, and some shopping the next day, we found we had several tent camping neighbors. The sites were clearly separated, so we still had plenty of our own space. Everyone seemed quiet and friendly and after more swimming, we headed to bed.

Sometime around 1 am, I awoke to the sound of one of our new neighbors who was having a rambling and clearly drunken conversation. Since tent fabric is far from soundproof, I could hear every painful detail of the drama between this mother / daughter pair who really should have been in a counselors office. I was very, very glad that my kids were asleep and not hearing about all of the childhood traumas the daughter was ranting about, or the mothers foul mouthed reply. Every time I would think they had passed out, the daughter would start yelling / slurring at her mother, "Enlighten me mom- WHYYYYYYYY did you do that?" The mom denied everything and blamed it all on an absent father. All I could think was, "Holy cow, I'm gonna really have to make sure to not mess up that badly with my kids."

Eventually, my kids woke up, and were like "What the heck is with those people?" Their eyes were as big as saucers because they haven't had a lot of exposure to the daytime TV talk show crowds. So much for my attempts to shelter them from weirdos.

By this time, we all had to pee, but there was no way we were getting out of the tent with those two lunatics out there. I heard another camper shout at them to be quiet, but they were on a roll. Finally, the mom mumbled something along the lines of , "If I don't get some sleep, I'm gonna go get someone's gun."

Well, I have only called 911 once before in my life, and that was to report a car accident on the freeway, but when a crazy drunken lady mumbles the word gun, and her crazier daughter won't shut up and let the woman pass out, my fingers flew.

I have to hand it to the Page, Arizona police department. They had about 6 cop cars there in no time- just lights, no sirens thank goodness because it was like 3 am. The crazy ladies went silent as soon as they saw flashing lights, and hid out in their tents not making a peep. Another camper came out and told the cops which tent contained the ruckus makers. The officer was not at all like the typical TV cop who would whip out his gun and scream "Get on the ground!" Instead, he was more like a psychiatrist, all calm talking and keeping the ladies settled. He gave them a strict talking to about their behavior, made sure there were no weapons and no one was getting in any cars. We decided to sneak out and head to the bathrooms while the cops were still there, just in case the drama started back up, but luckily, the rest of the night was quiet.

The next morning, we were really surprised to see who these loud mouthed, drunken wackos were. They had a nicer, cleaner, newer and more expensive car than us, and what looked like brand new tents. They sat at their picnic table drinking coffee, looking a bit tired and camperish, but otherwise pretty normal, all acting like nothing even happened. We were all baffled because they way they had acted the night before, we would have expected a rougher looking bunch.

In any case, my Girl Child kept wondering "Why on earth are these people out camping together?" I didn't know... maybe an attempt at a Mother's Day bonding trip? I think we learned a couple of lessons out of this one. You can't judge a book by its' cover, and it's usually better to work out your issues now rather than holding on to them for years until you finally blow your top. Oh, and also, excessive alcohol consumption is not a pretty sight.

Other than the early morning drama fest, we enjoyed our stop at Lake Powell, and I just keep reminding myself and my kids that there are more good people in the world than nut jobs.