Dinosaur Provincial Park, the world’s largest cache of cretaceous fossils, is located in Alberta’s Badlands. Calgary, the closest international airport, is over two hours by car, to give readers a sense of how much nothing is nearby.

We did Dinosaur Provincial Park in one day.

Here’s how:


MTM, the fossil-finding expert.

Arrive early.

While the park offers ample campground space, visitors like me who want to sleep in a lodge are out of luck. We booked an Air B & B, set our alarm clocks, and made it to the park by 9am. The Badlands are a desert environment. Mid-afternoon gets hot. Booking a morning excursion keeps everybody more comfortable.


MTM found this gorgosaurus tooth.

Book at least one guided tour.

Dinosaur Provincial Park is massive, but much of it is a natural preserve for paleontologists and park staff. The natural preserve is only open to those on a guided tour. We chose the morning Fossil Safari and were picking our way through a fossil bed by 10am. A park guide helped us determine which of our finds were fossils (everything MTM found) and which were rocks (everything I dragged over.)

Take a gander at DPP’s guided tours HERE.


The men enjoying our picnic by the Red Deer River.

Take a picnic.

The park offers ample picnic areas, with tables and fire pits. Firewood is even available at a kiosk. With only one snack bar onsite and the town of Brooks a thirty-minute drive away, bringing a picnic equals the best shot at a full belly.


Because everybody puts gorgosaurus fossils in their mouths, right?

Be gobsmacked.

When we took our guideson Cooper to Dinosaur Provincial Park for his sixth birthday, we didn’t expect to enjoy it as adults. We booked a visit to the paleontology lab thinking it’d give us some blessed air conditioning. Instead, we took a fascinating tour with a real paleontologist and got a chance to touch real fossils. Outside, fossils were EVERYWHERE. By the time we boarded the bus for our sunset photography tour, we knew what to look for.


Dinosaur Provincial Park’s Natural Preserve near sunset.

The lesson? You never know what might happen when you book a trip you think you won’t like. We loved Dinosaur Provincial Park and are already planning a future trip to Alberta to expand our horizons.

Read all about Cooper in my NYT best selling memoir Not Without My Father. Click HERE to get a copy in your preferred format.

What places have surprised you?

Tell us about your experiences in a comment today.

true value of a moment

You’ll never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory. – Andra Watkins

The antique piano witnessed a billion moments in its creaky life. It endured the first tentative plunks of lessons, the wild thrashings of tiny humans, the heavings of movers from there. No there. No really…….there.

It leaned its dinged wood against the wall and picked dust from stained ivory teeth. More a piece of furniture than an instrument, its stretched strings echoed with Chopin recitals, with masterful hymns, with one moment a crescendo of chords and sharps and flats.

The piano longed for someone, anyone, to crawl in its lap and transform a moment to music again.

A little boy heard its whispered pleas. He was accustomed to plonking his fat fingers and fists into the keys, his own euphoria of erratic song. An extension of his voice, really. He liked the way it transformed his unspoken thoughts into sound. Barked orders of staccato. I love you Daddy in one slow, soft middle C. Joy in a barrage of clashing notes, pounded out at once.

He grasped for joy again.

But he never expected to make music with his toes, with the flat soles of his feet. From on high, floating above the piano’s ivory lap, he stepped through different emotions, danced into the moment he made.

The piano welcomed butterfly kisses and knew she would always recall the glorious little boy. Wherever the moving men carted her. Whatever became of her sunken keys. However she landed, she knew one more moment of bliss.

Moments matter. They are the building blocks of memory.


Photograph Credit: Andra Watkins

This is part of a series of pictures about making memories. If you liked the story why not share it with your friends? Let’s meet on Facebook or Twitter. If you prefer pictures you will surely like my Instagram. I’ve collected inspirational things and more on Pinterest! Any comments? Write them below!

the true value of a moment