Bending birches among the dinosaurs

Erosion has exposed the mountaintop - a tor - and maybe a dinosaur or two.Some 66 million years ago, the last of the giant dinosaurs ended their 160-million-year reign as the giantist wanderers on the planet. But never fear; their bones became permanently encased in the future crust of the  aforementioned cosmic sphere, waiting for future young archeologists to dig them up.

Apparently, a few of the smaller specimens walked around Adams County, imprinting their footsteps in the still sandy future stone to become, in one location, capstone atop a bridge over a creek below Little Roundtop. It’s difficult to imagine dinosaurs leaving footprints on the battlefield where thousands of soldiers yet unimagined would die in bloody grapple.

I wonder sometimes, when I’m wandering among the trees and branches, what the dinosaurs thought of the South Mountains, already more than 400 million years old when the big critters came around.

I am a huge fan of getting the young folks into the woods surrounding their more urban dwellings. I would like to see more land open to public access so young people could do what I did when I was young – pick a place to leave the road to explore the world and history beyond the barbed wire fences. Maybe some of those young folks would offer to help create and maintain trails on land otherwise barred from use.

To borrow a line from one of my favorite scientist-authors, Carl Sagan, “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies was made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff.”

We rob our children of an important ingredient of being when we restrict them within the walls of their residences, telling them the environment is outside their windows. We are made of the same atoms as every other thing on or through which we walk, creating the individually unique shapes by which we recognize each other from the chances of molecular arrangement.

We must give them places where they can watch birds of assorted hues and song, and ants that build huge cities under mounds of earth, maybe some deer and rabbits. What better way to learn to appreciate “the environment” than to experience it with the other inhabitants of this space-slung marble we call Earth.

Scientific imagination, I notice in my history books, dwells mainly within youthful bodies and energetic brains, and has given birth to airplanes and steam engines, computers and rockets. Certainly there is room indoors for youngsters to design video games and plan space travel, but how much fuller their virtual experience would be if they have tested first-hand the way a birch bends beneath the weight of a lad or lass who grabs the trunk and swings to the ground.

What amazing confidence they would acquire to have hiked freely in a forest, and become a bit frightened by an unknown rustling they later discover to have been a raccoon among the leaves. Unfortunately, too many young people have no forest in which to hike, and no rustling leaves. Their only “wildlife” comprises scavenging squirrels and, occasionally, a raccoon or possum.

Act 98 of 2018 titled “An act encouraging landowners to make land and water areas available to the public for recreational purposes by limiting liability in connection therewith, and repealing certain acts,” may help offer more access to the considerable private land most of us can only drive by and admire. Hikers and wanders still would need permission, but maybe without the need to travel from one side of the county to the other to find a tree.

And that would be a good thing for would-be dinosaur seekers.

 

Thanks for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share. Click the “Share” button to share it on social media, or copy the URL and send it to friends and acquaintances you think might appreciate it.

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