The Ohiopyle state park in southwest Pennsylvania has a road leading to its campground that’s as vertical as a homo erectus. At one point, I envisioned my little caravan just slowly descending backwards as we went up the hill. But strain and gain we did and made it to a cozy campsite for the night. The park flows through the town of Ohiopyle along with the Youghiogheny River and its awesome waterfalls.
The next day it was on to Kentucky. Prior to going there I was perusing the Kentucky state parks during my research and found one tucked into the northern section of the state called Big Bone Lick. What a name! It was so odd and funny, I put it on my list of places to visit on my way west.
So after a long day of interstate highway traffic where I had my hazard lights on the whole time, I arrived at Big Bone in a peaceful, country setting surrounded by horse farms with maple and crabapple trees just beginning to change colors. There was a campground host who gave me the skinny on picking a campsite and putting the fee in the honor box. Off in the woods in a fenced section, some of the park’s buffalo herd were shuffling and settling down for the night. I felt like Laura Ingles, almost.
Well, guess where vertebrate paleontology was born in the United States? Did you know that in 1739 some French dude found huge bones sticking out of a bog and hence the name, Big Bone Lick. Bones from buffalo to mastodons, sloths, mammoths and saber tooth tigers were found. And for two centuries people just kind of stopped by, picked up some bones and carted them off to all parts of the world.
When Meriwhether Lewis was making his way to Missouri to meet up with Clark for their famous expedition, he stopped over for a couple of weeks to collect and catalogue some bones which he then had sent on to Thomas Jefferson. The former president had asked him to do that before continuing on to the expedition.
Imagine Meriwhether checking his to-do list while thrashing his way through a bog in Kentucky: gather camping equipment — check, purchase flour, sorghum, beans and ammo — check, and, oh yeah, don’t forget to pick up bones for Tommie.
Today, there are signs about the park clearly stating that any bones or artifacts should be left where they’re found. In other words, don’t touch the bones! So I didn’t even go looking for any. All I did was walk around the outdoor diorama which showed plaster renditions of prehistoric animals caught, struggling or dead in a murky bog. Once they got in, they didn’t get out.
On the road the next day, I stopped at a welcome center near Louisville. As the lady at the desk was helping me with directions, she asked if I was traveling alone. I hesitated. I should know the right answer to this one.
Only two days ago my daughter Amber had grilled me with suggestions for making people think there was someone else with me while traveling. It’s supposed to deter the criminal element. Things like getting a man’s pair of boots and setting them out in plain view or saying, “Yes, Fred’s resting inside at the moment.”
I stood there visualizing my own make-believe story. In it, I have this mixed breed Doberman Collie; answers to the name of Jeff. Kind of my hero Lassie, come home; and my protector, please don’t eat the whole burglar; leave something for the police to identify.
Fetch the bone, Jeff! Good dog!
(aka Tin Can Traveler)