Dinosaur National Monument

Today we drive to Vernal, Utah to visit a friend and tour the area.

Here’s the backstory:  We met Gavin at the wedding of Dennis and Kelly about three years ago (?).  As an avid outdoorsman, we had lots in common and were soon swapping stories.  We told him about our Great Adventure and said that someday we would be close to Vernal and would like to see him.  The feeling was mutual and we kept in touch.  Our stay in Grand Junction would be our chance to get together.

Around 7:30 we left with the Jeep and our first stop was McDonalds across the street from the RV Park.  Bad move.  After taking our money, they let us stand there while giving priority to the drive-thru customers.  It was obvious.  When another customer asked if we had ordered, I said we placed our order in April and were patiently waiting ever since.  This time, it was Jeanne who discussed the situation with management and our food appeared shortly thereafter.  By 8:00 we were on the road.

The route would take us north along state highway 139 to Rangely, Colorado and then east along US 40 to Vernal, Utah.  The countryside was typical of this area with grasslands changing to woodlands as the road cuts through mountain passes.  The area is remote.  On one stretch, it was 75 miles between towns.

US 40 passes close to the National Dinosaur Monument.  Since we were somewhat ahead of schedule we decided to visit the site.  It turned out the monument covers an enormous amount of land along the Yampa and Green rivers.  There is no way you can see the whole thing in one day, so we decided to limit our visit to the quarry and a short auto tour.  The place is awesome.

The quarry is covered by a unique building built right up against the side of a hill.  Inside is the exposed quarry, an overhead crane, workshops, exhibits and, of course, the gift shop.  The design of the building is unique in that it allows natural light to reach the quarry site.  It was a great idea and the direct sunlight won’t hurt fossilized dinosaur bones.  We stayed there quite a while.  This is very different than seeing dinosaur bones in a museum.  Seeing and touching fossilized remains in a setting like this makes the dinosaurs seem very real.  These creatures really did exist and this is the exact place where they lived and died.  And, they were big.  Really big with big teeth and claws.

After leaving the quarry, the auto tour took us along the Green River and some of the smaller creeks that cut through the country.  The views were stunning and we stopped several times to explore and take pictures.  A highlight of the tour was viewing the Indian petroglyphs carved into the rocks.  We asked all the questions with no answers:  Who carved these?  What did they represent?  Why would someone go through the trouble?  Maybe it was just Indian graffiti, or a joke the Indians intended to spring on some future travelers.  In any event, it was a strange echo from the past.  Native peoples really did visit this site and spent enough time here to carve these images.

Time was running short, so we headed for Vernal.  There is no doubt we will return someday for some in-depth exploration.

Gavin met us at the hotel after work and showed us around before it got dark.  Our first stop was an ridge overlooking the valley where he lives.  Good thing we had a 4-wheel drive vehicle.  Next was a quick visit to his friend who had built a cabin and was right in the middle of a kitchen addition.  The structure sort-of reminded us our our friends Doug and Karen in Southern California.  Our final stop was Gavin’s house.  Discussing the details someone’s home is way beyond the scope of this triplog.  However, I will share that Gavin lives in the Man-Zone.  A bachelor definitely lives here.  The first clue is the china cabinet he uses as a cigar humidor.

Over a steak dinner at one of the local eateries, we talked about our travels while Gavin talked about living in Vernal.  Before separating for the evening, we made plans for the following day.

By the time we went to bed, we were dead-tired.  It was one more interesting day on the Excellent Adventure.