Jul 27, 2008

[Travel] La Brea Tar Pits (Los Angeles, California)

La Brea Tar Pits Entrance


In an effort to play tourist but still in a geeky manner, one of my destinations during my US trip was to the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California. This geek attraction is located at Hancock Park along Wilshire Blvd., between Fairfax and Curson and is pretty accessible since there are several Metro buses that pass along Wilshire (which is precisely how I got there).

Page MuseumSince this was also the same day that I was scheduled to watch Wicked and given I really wanted to see the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which is also located at Hancock Park, I figured I'd have enough time to walk around the park, take a few photos and just appreciate that there was to see. I wouldn't have time to visit the actual George C. Page Museum, where they house most of the fossils found in the excavation pits. In hindsight, I wish I had made more time to visit the museum as well, since I'm sure it would have been worth it since I enjoyed the park.

Factoid - the term "La Brea" is pretty much Spanish for "tar" and thus the La Brea Tar Pits translates into something like The Tar Tar Pits. Great. And of course there's the added irony that there's no such thing as a "tar pit" - it's all asphalt.

MastodonsWalking around the park, of course you can't help but miss the large "tar" lake with the added mastodon statues that is often featured in movies. there were other things like statues of sabertooth cats and giant sloths and of course excavation pits past and present, all full of stinky, smelly oil. What was even stranger was the coincidental abundance of black birds on the day I was there - no, they were not birds covered in oil. They just happened to be black, but were not necessarily ravens. At least I don't think they were...

RobertThe best part about my walk around the park was visiting the Pit 91 Excavation, which is one of the still-active excavations in the park. Volunteers come yearly to help in the efforts and park visitors can watch their progress at a custom-built viewing deck. On the day I visited it was still off-season so there was no work going on, but there was Robert, a very helpful guide who was willing to talk about their work and share information with anyone who chose to visit. I spent a fair amount of time in conversation with him as he pointed out the fossils still half-buried in the asphalt and explained all the little colored flags that identified each species. Oh yes, I'm such a sucker for interactive experiences like that.

I really wish I had more time to explore the park and ultimately to visit the Page Museum itself, but then what can you do on such a tight schedule, eh? I'd recommend visiting the La Brea Tar Pits if you're a geek who's dabbled in interest in dinosaurs. As with most museum-style experiences, the fun is really dependent on you and your orientation towards the subject matter and just about how much you're willing to learn.
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