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Califonia, USA

I am learning that California is pleasantly diverse and geologically quite remarkable.  From volcanoes - both active and ancient, to earthquake geology to fossil beds  to deep blue glacial lakes, scenic rugged coastlines, natural rock columns and towering granite domes and walls, California is one place I can spend many years exploring and still not be completely satisfied that I have seen it all.  Here are our explorations thus far....

United States of America (USA)

USA is an awesome place to explore.  Lacking much of the known history that Europe has, United States has a diversity of natural landscape that is hard to beat.  From red rock canyons to massive granite rock formations, to volcanoes, to rocky columns and towers, to amazing waterfalls, to fossil beds and amazing coastlines, United States has something for every nature lover, and every so often, a few things for a history lover.  Here are our recent explorations by state:

Dinosaurs in Utah  

Dinosaur National Monument, Jensen, Utah

Our first dinosaur encounter occurred toward the end of our trip on the Utah side of Dinosaur National Monument. We visited Quarry Visitor Center at 9am and were told the Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit Hall was to open at 9:30am. Normally, there would be shuttles or a caravan escort hourly, but on the day of our visit, the Ranger told us to drive to the Exhibit Hall at our leisure. There was a 1-mile trail connecting the Visitor Center to the Exhibit Hall, but unfortunately, for the most of this year, the Fossil Trail will be closed due to a recent landslide, (estimated opening September 2017). Fossil Trail is also a hike where one would most likely encounter fossils, according to a Ranger.

Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park

My kids have been begging to go gold panning for a while now. So I told my oldest son to research where we could go to do that, and he presented Marshall State Historic Park to me.  Located in Coloma, it is a 2.5 hour drive from the SF Bay Area. We pulled into a quiet street with a few exhibits displayed on a sunny but cool Saturday morning. The river seemed to flow at a high rate so we made very sure we found a small inlet to pan for gold. We were told by the Visitor Center staff that the gold panning Beach area was across the one-lane bridge and downstream. We carefully made our way across and walked a little ways to find a safe spot. The boys took out their pans, but quickly found that our foil pans were no match for the heavy wet sands. We had better luck picking out gold flakes from the sands with our fingers. Perhaps a metal pan would have done a better job. We did not find any nuggets, just flakes, though an insufficient amount to run any at-home tests to ensure it's authenticity. Perhaps a more “lucky” approach to gold finding would be to spend an hour or two panning with the State Historic Park’s staff for $7/person. More information at the Visitor Center or by calling the Park before heading over. Extreme weather cancels. If you plan to gold pan for free on the beach, check with the Visitor Center about river conditions.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, near Las Vegas, Nevada

Historic Railroad Tunnels (Lake Mead NRA) to Hoover Dam, Nevada

Hoover Dam is an attraction to many visiting Las Vegas. Built in the 1930s, it was the tallest dam in the world at the time. The Dam produced the largest reservoir in the world, known as Lake Mead. The railroad that carried supplies 24 hours a day for the building of Hoover Dam was recently converted to a trail. It's trailhead starts near Lake Mead NRA’s (National Recreation Area) Alan Bible Visitor Center. Designated a National Historic Trail, the Historic Railroad Trail goes through five tunnels and leads to the top of Hoover Dam.