The experience living at Camp Cretaceous, forming friendships, worshiping with the group, and working with the fossils in the quarries is an exciting rewarding one.
It is oh so helpful for the "rookies" to get an idea what their time will bring!
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, scene I.
The Field Paleontology research course is conducted on a private cattle ranch in eastern Wyoming. The region is low rolling grasslands at an elevation of about 4200ft.
One of the most important things to understand is that we are all there as guests of the ranch owners. It is of primary priority that we respect the land, the flora, the fauna, and the owners. In particular each participant in the research project has a responsibility to leave cattle undisturbed, shut all thru-fence gates, report any breaks in the fences, drive only along established paths, and generally leave the area the same as, if not better than, when we first arrived. We are to obey rules and requests by the ranch owners.
Please note that the gravel/dirt road in from the paved highway traverses private property. Drive carefully and be vigilant and cautious whenever cattle are present near the road.
The campsite has a central facility for bathrooms, showers, kitchen, meeting area, etc. Sleeping will be done in individual tents or other personal facilities. Electricity and hot and cold running water are available. The kitchen facilities contains an electric stove and oven and refrigerators-all the comforts of home! You will be able to recharge cell phones, etc. We also have a satellite internet connection and a computer wireless network in the camp area. There are a limited number of hookups for RV's or other such camping equipment.
Each individual will have his or her own tent and sleeping bag or other camping setup. The only exception is for married couples and children that share sleeping quarters with their families.
The weather is hopeful dry with occasional days of rain. The wind can be quite strong and constant! The temperature can be so low that you may find occasional frost at dawn, and it can be over 100°F in the afternoon.
Because of the unpredictable nature of the weather, you need to be flexible. One goal of the research project is to perform as much careful quarrying as possible. We try to take advantage of all the dry days as possible. There are other activities for rainy days!
A hot breakfast and dinner will be prepared for you, and materials for a sack lunch are set out in the morning for you to make your own lunch. Lunch is eaten out at the quarry site. The fare is basically ovo-lacto vegetarian; however, we try to accomodate vegan and limited omnivore diets.
The use of tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, and illegal drugs are not permitted in the camp or the quarries. Smoking anywhere on the ranch is prohibited.
All the tools and eye protection that you will need will be provided. No one may work in a quarry without eye protection.
While some shade is typically arranged for when working in the quarry, you need to consider serious protection from the sun. It is very easy to develop a painful sunburn. Appropriate clothing is essential. Cover exposed skin with opaque materials. Generally, long pants, a light long-sleeve shirt, a hat, and a generous application of sun block (SPF 45 or higher) works well. On-the-other-hand, do not overdress. Heat stroke or heat exhaustion is a potential problem at times if your natural cooling is inhibited. What is ideal for early morning may not work well in the hot afternoon. Dress in layers.
Laundry is typically done once a week on Friday afternoons. Therefore you will need to bring a week plus a day or two supply of clothing.
You are expected to fill your own canteen or water bottle each morning and carry it with you. Drinking water will be transported to the quarry each day for you to refill your supply when it is exhausted during the day. Near the quarry is a port-a-potty (the Bone Head) so there is no excuse to restrict your water intake. At times the working conditions are quite dry—it is easy to beome dehydrated without realizing it. Drink lots of water and drink often!
If you normally wear contact lens, consider wearing glasses for the duration. Glasses provide the eye protection that is required in the quarry and provides some protection against the wind driven dust. At the very least, glasses can be more comfortable in dusty conditions!
If you wear a wedding band or other rings, consider seriously removing it (or them) during of your time on-site. A ring can be damaged or lost and can easily become glued to your finger when working with the Bone Bond. Normally the superglue that gets on your hands and fingers is not much of a problem, but with a ring...!
Gloves may be desired. However, do not wear fabric gloves when working with Bone Bond. Superglue on the glove sets very fast, becomes hot, and can burn and/or or glue your finger to the glove. Generally, gloves are useful to protect your hands when moving matrix, but are cumbersome when working delicately with a bone.
The area is marginal for cell phones. You may need to walk to the top of a ridge from the campsite or the quarry site to get a reliable signal. Not all cell phone service providers are equal—some provide service in camp, some at the top a nearby ridge, some not at all.
The quarry site is located about one mile from the camp site. The route is not rugged with a slow uphill section from the camp site, a fairly level section, and a slow descent to the quarry. You will generally walk this. A van or pickup is driven out carrying equipment, water, etc. If there is room, then you may have the van transport your pack.
Each participant will be assigned to a larger group for chores and camp responsibilities.
Work in the quarries and lectures occur primarily Monday through Friday. The period from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday is observed as a day of rest by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. During this time, work and classes cease. Normal chores are suspended—meals are generally prepared by the directors of the project. All participants are invited to attend worship activities in the morning. In the afternoon, activities such as nature hikes, bird watching, travel to see the natural sites of the Black Hills, etc. are typically available. Sunday is, especially if the the weather is good, often a day of work in the quarries. However, chores and quarry activity are not required for those who prefer to respect this day as a sabbath.