Sunday, August 07, 2005

Fossil Hunting

On a lark, inspired by a post from the Trailblazers of SEPA Yahoo group, last Wednesday we headed out to Swatara State Park near Lebanon. Now, I grew up about 30 minutes south of there and was headed home to visit my dad anyway, so it wasn't totally out of my way...but of course I couldn't go the route I knew. I mapquested to find a shorter less congested route. It would've been shorter, execpt I missed an exit and drove almost all the way to Allentown before getting off Rt 222. The kids were very patient however as the prospect of banging on rocks with a hammer and discovering fossils intriqued them. (We even had safety goggles.) Okay, so we arrive around 1:30 pm and it is 97 degrees. I don't expect anyone else to be there in this heat. There are however a whole van load of people and a truck. Well, I figure, at least if they are friendly we might catch a pointer or two.

They were from a geology class at Millersville University in Lancaster. One of the men came up to us (he knew we needed help) and told us to "ask the lady over there to show us what to do...she knows everything". Maybe not everything, but she was very helpful. She has two children 5 and 7 and teaches Earth Science at a local high school. She demonstrates how to crumble the rock (you really don't need a hammer) and shows us what the fossils look like. The kids were off, crumbling and running back to her - "Is this one?" "Yep, that's a trilobyte." "No, that one looks like a clay pigeon, keep looking though." After about an hour we were hot and I was ready to head over to dad's. The kids would have kept going; I promised them another visit.

The pics on this page are what some of what we found. I can't stress how easy this was, although it may not be as easy at other places. Of course, what real collectors are looking for - whole fossils - we didn't find many. (A few shell molds were complete) The fossil guy has some great pics from his visit last fall, if you want to see what the real rock hounds can find. The important thing my kids took away was that this was an enjoyable activity that they are able to do and adults choose to do. There are plenty of sites to search in the NJ, PA, DE, MD area. Check out my geology resources page for some links.


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