Paleo Preserve Fossil Museum
From 2013 to 2015 I visited Camp Bayou County Park in Ruskin, Florida many times. I returned in February 2016, but this time I went when the Paleo Preserve Fossil Museum was open. Florida has very few fossils from earlier than the Pleistocene, when there were giant pigs and Megalodon sharks, so the Velociraptor skull they have had to be brought in from elsewhere. Everywhere there are bits and pieces that used to be inside alligators, crocodiles, horses, llamas, and mammoths. On the floor was a mammoth tusk that probably weighs more than I do. There are original bones, mineralized bones, and resin casts. There are also many mollusks and echinoderms (sea biscuits!) represented, as well as agatized coral, Florida’s official state fossil and stone. I had never heard of such a thing. As it turns out, there are seven states without official fossils, including New Hampshire and Rhode Island, which along with Florida are the states I’m most familiar with. Ammonite shells can be bought for three dollars. There are also horse teeth, shark’s teeth, and more that can be bought for between two and ten dollars. The non-profit that runs the park is always looking for donations.
Later I took a quick walk down one of the trails. The palmetto around rustles very loudly with the slightest movement. What I thought was a giant, prehistoric pig crashing through the undergrowth turned out to just be a squirrel. I stopped to look at a plant and a grasshopper jumped near my face with a loud pop and flapping of wings. I also saw an osprey in a tree and we stared at each other. Besides the interesting animal life, there are many dried palms on the edge of the park that can be whittled down to make excellent swords. Add some sound effects, and they become light sabers. My imaginary friend was so impressed with my skills that he refused to fight. Why won’t anyone play with me? :(