The last of our Road Trip detail series. After this, few readers, we all get back to the regular TLTBE blog entries.
We woke in our noisy hotel in Vernal, and quickly got going. The first stop of the day was breakfast at Betty’s Cafe. Thank you, internets, for recommending this place. The coffee was Heaven, the waitress had too much pep, but was very fast and cheerful. Tourists and locals both ate heartily of the delicious food. If you go, the fried potato dish needed more frying – don’t know what that problem is in Utah, but seems common – everything else was great. When we went to leave, we watched an old guy in a large pickup pull in behind a small pickup and bumper push his truck a foot forward (slowly) as a greeting to his friend. It was funny.
Thus fed and caffeinated, we went directly to the Utah Field House Museum to start off our day. This museum is fantastic. It is a well designed museum and may have been the best sight of our trip, even though their entire main floor was empty and being refinished at the time. Your small entry fee gives you a seat at their introductory film, which I normally pooh-pooh, but it was good stuff. The film is set in a room done up as though it were a camp near a dig, with all the appropriate props. Lighted stars glow faintly from the ceiling and the film fades in while the stars dim, as if sunrise has come along with the start of the film. You are taken through a marvelous explanation, in almost-layman terms of what the Utah Field House is about, where their fossils come from and some maps to get you oriented. Then, paleontologists talk about the digs, what they look for, what they find and what it all means. These guys are equally as excited about their finds as Adam Savage is on most episodes of Mythbusters. That excitement is contagious and you carry it with you as the film ends and you head into the museum displays. There are a range of exhibits along the way, enough for youngsters to get involved, but mostly geared towards adults. Nothing too stuffy or dry.
Near this shot was the partial skeleton of the dino shown. They didn’t have the head to complete the skeleton and the drawing of the head seems to follow that out.
This fantastic museum had not only animal fossils, but plants as well. Here we have a chocolate family fossil Wonder what prehistoric chocolate was like? I do.
A shot by Slick of the wall of fossils pulled from their dig sites. So many. The wall went about 20′ across and more than that high.
I could honestly go on about this museum for an hour it was so great. But let me just summarize here and tell you it was designed very well. You never noticed until you were done that you had just gone up a tall two stories while looking at the fossils. Lights, motions sensors, paintings, placards, music, everything was put in just the right place to help the experience without seeming cheesy or overdone. If you are headed by this area, I suggest you work it in to your plans somehow.
If the grand museum weren’t enough, they have a dinosaur garden outside, wrapped around their building. Paths take you past exotic looking plants, dinosaur statues and other prehistoric animal statues.
Here is Slick next to a representation of creatures older than most dinos and previous up the line to peoples, although they extincted and never got to taste coffee. Slick is on the verge of making his ‘listening to inanimate objects’ expression.
Here’s me, goofing around. FYI: there are many signs requesting you stay on the path and don’t touch the statues. I promise I didn’t touch the statue, but I was off the path, surely. I usually am.
After a stop at the gift shop, we drove over and up to the Dinosaur National Monument area. Quite sadly, the Quarry building is closed for severe safety reasons. I didn’t even get a shot of the building itself as they’ve closed the road leading up to it. Inside that building is an enclosed quarry wall with exposed fossils, really good ones, still embedded in the rock. From the pictures and retellings, it is fantastic. Alas, we did not get to see it. They’ve set up a temporary visitor’s center with some displays and lots of maps to show you were to view and hike to the other sights in the area. We gathered up some (crappy) maps and got on our way. As it was again blazing hot without a breeze, we skipped over any hike that was longer than a mile. This still left us some good stuff to see.
First up, petroglyphs. Petroglyphs are images chipped or carved into rock. Pictographs are images drawn or painted onto rock. I don’t know if there is a special term for petroglyphs that have been painted – do you guys?
The park is a large area. After a couple petroglyph stops, we paused here to enjoy the flowers and stripes of land.
We continued on to Josie’s Cabin. Josie was a homesteader in a time when homesteading wasn’t done much anymore, what with telephones and international travel being hip. This picture shows a flower-filled field behind her cabin. There were some nice, shady spots here so Slick and I avoided the sun for a bit before continuing on our way.
Behind that wall of rock is another petroglyph site. The park did a nice enough job with paths, but don’t go about wearing sandals or without water.
Pic by Slick. I like that we got so close we could have touched the petroglyphs. We did NOT touch them, of course, with our destructive skin oils and all, but it was thrilling to stand right next to them where their creators stood once.
Earrings for everyone. Wave for the
camera rock-chipping tool!
Everything we wanted to see in Dinosaur and Rangley, CO was either closed or not yet open for the season, so we decided to drive straight up through the Flaming Gorge Valley to head homeward.
The Flaming Gorge Dam, holding back the Green River.
Pretty enough, but we were ready to get closer to home. The beetles were busy around here and the forest is scarred, but still beautiful.
Roadside geology, leaving Utah. I don’t grasp how anyone can see this stuff and not GET IT.
Wyoming!! How can you tell? See the snow fence in the lower left? Yeah, WY.
Another sign you’re in Wyoming? Antelope. Everywhere. This guy was surprised to see us.
More telltale Wyoming scenery: blazing plains sunsets, accents of windmills on the horizon.
Here is the Google map summary of Day Four.
The entire four days of road trip. I drew in the rough shape of the Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway in purple so you could get the idea. Moab and the Arches National Park got cut off at the bottom of the map, but you get it.
It was a fantastic road trip. Slick and I had a good time, filled our nerd desires and saw some more of our nation.
Good times, good times.