Yesterday, this hand painted sign along Highway 116 in South Hadley, Massachusetts beckoned us down a winding dirt road into the woods. We had a few minutes before the lecture at the Eric Carle Museum, and I have a weakness for funky roadside dinosaur attractions.
The parking lot at the Nash Dinosaur Tracks Museum and Curio Shop was more like a bulldozed clearing, empty except for a scattering of pale yellow leaves, a rusting truck bed and a cement dinosaur.
Inside the cinderblock building we met Cornell Nash, museum director, amateur paleontologist, and gift shop manager. He has collected dozens of dinosaur footprints from the quarry behind the museum. Most prints are three-toed, roughly the size of a human handprints, from a dinosaur the size of a Coelophysis. A few are larger—a foot and a half or so—from a meat-eater often identified Dilophosaurus.
Nash doesn’t have enough glass cases to house the rest of his oddities, most of which are for sale—trilobites, ammonoids, cereal-box plastic sauropods, and yellowed trading cards.
He told us that when early American settlers found the trackways in the late 1700s and early 1800s, they had a very different explanation for them. The most popular idea was that Noah had released some giant ravens from the Ark, and let them run around on the vast mudflats after the Deluge.
When I first saw tracks like these many years ago, it sparked the idea for the Dinotopian footprint alphabet, which is the way in Dinotopia many dinosaurs are able to compose their thoughts.