My son has loved dinosaurs since his third birthday. In fact, the theme of his third birthday was dinosaurs. We hung them from the ceiling and draped them on the walls; we gave them out in goodie bags and used them to decorate the cupcakes. At the time, my son, still struggling to pronounce words correctly, called them “dido-wars.” He wore them on his clothes and loved when I read books about them before bed. Two and a half years later, the giant beasts that once roamed the earth still fascinate him. The Land Before Time movies are some of his favorite shows. While eating lunch with me, he enjoys studying his flashcards, comparing stats about different dinosaurs and finding where they once roamed on the globe. Dinosaurs are in every corner of our house and frequently in the stories my son tells.
Because of my son’s obsession with dinosaurs, I have wanted to take him to Dinosaur State Park in Connecticut for at least two years. But the drive from where we live is close to four hours – far too long of a drive for day trip. However, this summer, for our annual camping trip, we decided to go to Connecticut. After hours of research, trying to locate the best campsite, my spouse settled on Kettletown State Park. A quick google search revealed that Dinosaur State Park was only forty-five minutes away – perfect for an afternoon adventure.
The days leading up to our camping had my son wound so tightly with excitement that sleep seemed impossible. At night, he lied in bed for hours pulling books off his shelves and reading them to his stuffed animals. And despite delaying sleep hour after hour, he woke up early every morning, questioning me almost immediately about how many days remained until we left. Then, on the morning of our departure, I was in the living room doing homework, when suddenly his voice shattered the silence, “Today is camping day – Yay!” And from that moment, he bounced around the house like a pinball, high on anticipation until I finally packed up the car and we left.
My spouse’s work schedule, combined with traffic, ensured that we got to the campsite later than we had wished, but early enough to take a short walk down to the river before cooking dinner. Just being at the campsite, setting up the tent and playing in his sleeping bag, kept my son happily entertained. While we cooked dinner, we played cards. This year we taught him how to play Skip-bo Junior, a kid’s version of a game a friend of mine had introduced us to years ago when we went to visit her out in Washington State. Even though my son was completely exhausted, slurring his words and struggling to keep his eyes open, he managed to stay away long enough to toast a few marshmallows before falling asleep in the tent.
In the morning, we slept in – when your summer schedule has you waking up at 5 every morning, six thirty is sleeping in – and after brushing our teeth and washing our faces, we climbed into the car and headed north to Dinosaur State Park where dinosaur footprints have been preserved for millions of years. Based on my son’s infatuation with dinosaurs, I expected him to be thrilled and exploding with excitement when he saw the footprints. But my disappointment was matched only by his. Footprints, apparently, if they do not belong to a T-Rex are boring. After one quick glance, my son was ready move on. Luckily, there were other activities at the park that he found interesting. We watched a video about evolution that I didn’t like. I thought it jumped around too much and didn’t seem to follow through on any single idea, but what do I know. My son loved it. The claymation video about dinosaurs was much better – one of the few things my son and I were in agreement over all day. Along with watching videos we took a nature walk where we learned a little about the geology of Connecticut and my son learned the word igneous which he enjoyed saying over and over and over again. After a picnic lunch we took a short hike, and my son was very excited to spot tree leaves that looked very much like the dinosaur footprints he had seen. He was more excited by the leaves then he had been about the actual footprints, so excited that he demanded I take a picture of them.
I originally thought we’d spend an hour or two at the park, but instead we stayed almost until they closed. Even though the actual footprints – the entire reason we went there in the first place - were a let down, we did end up having a very enjoyable family day.