Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Road trip: Dinosaur tracks near Tuba City and Cameron bridge

Somewhere approaching Tuba City on U.S. 160, you might notice hand-painted signs for dinosaur tracks. Chances are you'll be intrigued. We were compelled to stop on our way back from Monument Valley last weekend.

A red-lettered sign directed us onto a dirt road on the Navajo Reservation. To the left, jewelry stands sat empty, likely because of the gloomy skies and low temperatures on Sunday. Four people wandered around in the dirt, and we ventured in their direction.

A woman walked over and offered us a tour. We accepted her offer. The fast-talking, swift-paced woman directed us to a spot where the tracks begin and suggested taking a photograph from a low angle. She seemed to have her script prepared.

She led her shivering tourgoers over to various-size tracks, saying, "This is probably from a T-Rex" or "They call this a triceratops."

Our guide said the Navajos discovered the tracks and fossils when they came into the area. She shared a story of her visiting the tracks on an eighth-grade field trip.

Whether one chooses to accept the information presented is an individual choice, but witnessing the evidence of prehistoric life is reason enough to visit. We saw petrified wood, fossilized bones, dinosaur eggs, droppings, and tracks of many sizes. Some estimated that these dino footprints were imprinted in the mud about 200 million years ago.

The woman offered to show us more, but it was starting to rain. We tipped her $10, which seemed fair for 15 minutes of her time. (She said $20 was a standard donation; however, she seemed to appreciate any amount we gave her.)

Our next stop was a historic suspension bridge in Cameron. The span was built in 1911 by the Midland Bridge Company and runs parallel to the current bridge that takes traffic across the Little Colorado River gorge. The Cameron Trading Post sits on the other side of the river.

 A fence prevents walking on the Cameron suspension bridge. 
I subscribe to the belief that it's all about the journey, not the destination. Random stops like this are what make road trips unforgettable. Pull over next time you have the chance.