Fossil Butte National Monument, Idaho, Idaho-Wyoming trip, National Parks and Monuments, Utah, Wyoming

Fossil Butte National Monument, and going home

There seemed to be historical markers about the Oregon Trail or California Trail or Mormon pioneers everywhere we went. I like the way Idaho paints its historical markers. Our metal ones might hold up to all kinds of abuse (and we saw one marker in Idaho that had been destroyed by a wildfire) but the metal ones with just type are so boring compared to Idaho’s artful markers.

We crossed back over the state line to see Fossil Butte National Monument, near Kemmerer, Wyoming. The visitor’s center was extremely interesting, with a timeline that led from the beginning of geological history up to the present, beginning as you drove up the road. The spatial aspect of it was mind-blowing. I am fascinated with geology but if I studied it for long my head would explode. Seriously. The fossils within were excellent too. A nice follow-up to our trips to four other fossil-related National Monuments in the last five years.

We didn’t spend long here. We needed food and we had turned our thoughts to returning home. A side trip to Kemmerer filled our bellies at a sweet little diner on the main drag and then Sandy wanted to take the quickest way to Salt Lake City, so instead of the scenic route, we took Interstate 80, where the speed limit was 80 and every big truck in the area was zooming through. The wind was up and I can say that this was my least favorite part of the trip. I had a death grip on the wheel while Sandy napped, and then he awoke to watch me drive a long fast descent into Utah. There was a time when a drive like this would not have been possible for me due to panic attacks. I am a flatlander from the swamps of coastal Carolina. But I’ve gotten a lot of experience driving in the past ten years so I did not relinquish the wheel. I would not choose this route again if possible.

We ate at a chain restaurant because no independent restaurants nearby were open on a Sunday night, and stayed at a chain hotel. Early in the morning, we returned the rental car. We drove around Salt Lake City airport three times – what a confusing place! Our plane stopped on the runway and returned to the gate because of an engine problem. One man insisted on getting off the plane. I think he was scared. But the engine was repaired and we made it to Phoenix in time to catch our connection. Southwest delayed its flights to give us a little more time, which was nice.

Flying into Raleigh Durham Airport, we didn’t know what to expect. Our car smelled dank, but it was fine. The pilot had said that the storm had moved to our west, but the drive home wasn’t bad. My friend had cooked us dinner. We had a great time, but we were glad to be home and see our kitties.

Now where will we go next?

art, Dinosaur National Monument, hiking, National Parks and Monuments, Utah

Dinosaur National Monument – The Petroglyphs

We had seen some petroglyphs at the Swelter Shelter site, but there are many more in the park. Looking at these on the east side of the Green River off Cub Creek Road, we definitely understand why this art evokes the idea of alien visits.

The first set was easy to get to and they were so amazing I thought that they might be all on that road. But noooooo…we had some climbing to do. It was getting hot and Sandy is not that fond of cliffside heights so I decided to see how far I would get before I chickened out. But I didn’t chicken out. I yelled down at Sandy not to climb up because it was scary. He thought I said “Come up here!” So we both hung out on the cliffside with a beautiful view around us and ancient art on the cliffs around us. The trail wound up gradually and was very pretty too.

There was a flute player and many lizards, painted and real, at this site, along with a ham-fisted fellow.

If only we had food and some more water and time, we would have loved to explore this area more. But in our enthusiasm, we had only eaten a couple of granola bars that day and we were getting a bit shaky.

We drove out to see Josie Morris’ cabin, the homestead of a very interesting woman, but due to hunger and our cameras being out of juice, we headed back to Dinosaur, Colorado, ate at a little diner, and drove six hours back to Broomfield, near Denver.

art, critters, Dinosaur National Monument, National Parks and Monuments, Utah

Dinosaur National Monument – The Landscape

After leaving the quarry, we only had time to take a scenic drive up Cub Creek Road. You can see the layers undulating through the hills. The park is huge and there is much more to see, but this road was a good choice for a day trip because it had a variety of features that were historical and beautiful. The first stop was at the Swelter Shelter petroglyphs and pictographs. Petroglyphs are carved or incised into the stone. Pictographs are painted using natural pigments on the stone.

If I go back, I’d like to hike on the trail going up into these rocks, the Sound of Silence Trail. Doesn’t that seem refreshing? On a cool day, anyway. I like quiet.

Then we came to the Split Mountain Campground, which is where I’d definitely want to camp after taking a guided raft on the Green River through its canyons.

Sandy was just ecstatic over this coyote that trotted along the road beside us, while I lost my mind about the semi-tame bunnies on the trail near the Quarry.

On to the main show, more petroglyphs!

Dinosaur National Monument, National Parks and Monuments, Utah

Dinosaur National Monument – The Bones

(This post refers to a trip we took in September.) Picking only a few photos from Dinosaur National Monument is a difficult task. We got there reasonably early in the morning, and when Sandy presented his ID with his credit card to the ranger for the entry fee, he was informed that he could get a senior lifetime pass to the National Park System for $10 that covers anyone in the car with him. So THAT was the first great thing.

We headed up a little ways to the Quarry House, where a cliff with embedded bones has been preserved in a building. In the parking lot, we found that we were just in time for a ranger-led hike down Fossil Discovery Trail, in which she explained the great variations in the geology of the park. There are twenty-three different rock formations exposed in the area dating back hundreds of millions of years. This area was once a shallow sea, and we saw clam fossils and rippled stones from the water.

The heavy rains from the day before made some of the trail slippery and we were advised not to go past a certain point, but we did get to see some bones out on the trail walls. An enormous number of large dinosaurs met their watery end in a flood here. Small dinosaurs too, but mostly they were swept downstream. They are making new discoveries constantly in this park.

There’s a vertebra under that little ledge there. Most of the bone fragments are brown and heavily worn on the rock surface.

In the Carnegie Quarry, the rock face is pretty amazing. You have to wonder what is left under there.

Anyway, at the risk of having to turn in my nerd badge, the dinosaurs were not the most exciting part of the DNM for me. Don’t get me wrong, they were fun and if I had actually been able to find some on my own, I would have been out of control. The landscape and the petroglyphs were what made me fall in love with this place.

Next: Dinosaur National Monument – The Landscape

Colorado, National Parks and Monuments, Utah

Driving across Northwestern Colorado

(This post refers to a September trip to Colorado, written much later.) The next day we set out for Dinosaur National Monument, which spans the Colorado/Utah border. The visitor center and the quarry exhibit were on the Utah side so we aimed for the western entrance in Utah, a state that we had not visited yet.

I loved the long straight roads through the sagebrush plains. I could see myself as a ranch woman there, although in reality you wouldn’t catch me on a horse or slaughtering cattle or chickens! Nice fantasy, though, cowgirl hat, leather chaps, lariat in hand and rifle on shoulder. When I came back I subscribed to a classic Western channel on Roku, since that is the closest I’ll ever come to it! After talking with locals, we understood that people who worked in the towns that catered to tourists couldn’t afford to live there. We spent some time in Steamboat Springs, and then drove through smaller towns that seemed very sparse and poor. We saw very few cars on the long road to Utah.

We stopped at Yampa River State Park on the way for a quick nature walk. The colors were beautiful. It would be nice to go back and raft this river. When I just checked the website, it was 16 degrees there, brrr!

It had rained on and off all day, but as we approached the Utah line the clouds grew very dark and became as interesting as the surrounding landscape. Then we were rewarded for the rain.

We got there just after the visitor’s center closed, so we found a cheap motel in Vernal, Utah, had dinner and beers at Vernal Brew Pub (very good!). I recommend the Allosaurus Amber Ale.

Next: Dinosaur National Monument.