Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In the tracks of dinosaurs

The hike was over five miles in -- and then all those same steps back -- but it felt worth it to stand in the tracks of dinosaurs, creatures from some 150 million years ago. The site? Picketwire Canyon, one of our last stops in Colorado.

I love the story of the name 'Picketwire' -- it comes from the French name for the river that runs there -- 'Purgatoire' -- in turn, named for Spanish treasure-seekers who died there without benefit of clergy (thus, relegated to the pains of purgatory). Somewhere along the line, somebody couldn't say 'purgatoire' and decided it sounded like 'picketwire'. If you say it with a movie-version cowboy-Western accent, it just about works. How many idiosyncrasies of language come about from just such mis-hearings, mis-speakings?

We dry-camped tonight, isolated on a ridge in the Comanche Grasslands of Colorado. Lying in bed, I stared out at an ocean of stars, and couldn't help but think that the light from some of them might well have originated the same time those dinosaurs were making their muddy tracks.

But now it's time for us to make our way into Kansas.

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