Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dinosaur National Monument

Yesterday's plan was to drive from Grand Lakes, CO to Dinosaur National Monument. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. Let me tell you about this place. First, it has several entrances. Only one of them has the visitor center. And if you leave the highway (U.S. route 40) every time it says "Dinosaur National Monument," you won't get to the right spot. I drove for miles (beautiful drive but it was still miles and miles of the-middle-of-nowhere) into DNM through the eastern most entrance and ended up at the cul de sac at the end of the access road where five pickup trucks were parked on the shoulder and not a human being in sight. The sign, which I finally found, was about survival and all the dangers of camping there. And there are a lot!!!! You can't swim because there are dangerous undercurrents and you can get sucked under. Etc., etc. I didn't read them all, I just thought, this is NOT the place for me. I am in way over my head here. These are serious fossil collectors. Where's the visitor center, the hiking trails, the gift shop? And when I finally figured out that you had to go to Vernal, Utah -- and drove there -- to see those things I was too late and the park was closed. My choices were

1) to spend the night in the area and start my day with that location tomorrow morning

2) write it off and instead spend my time trying to get closer to the next destination which is Arches National Park

I picked option #2 and high-tailed it to Moab. The shortest route between U.S. 40 and Moab is a little road called 191 South. This darling stretch of highway goes through Ashley National Forest. Some facts:

Ashley National Forest is located in northeastern Utah and Wyoming.

It encompasses 1,384,132 National Forest acres, (1,287,909 in Utah and 96,223 in Wyoming). Of the total acres, 276,175 are High Uintas Wilderness.

180,530 additional acres of High Uintas Wilderness is located on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

Elevations on the Ashley National Forest range from 6,000 feet to over 13,500 feet.

AND the Badlands of Utah. There is nothing -- I mean N O T H I N G -- on that road. Don't drive it if you have to go to the bathroom. Or if you were thinking a hotel or restaurant might be handy. Or a gas station. Because those things are not there. If you want several elk to wander across the road in front of you, or you have a predilection for the Open Range (this means cattle are grazing loose and they are standing along the highway or placidly in the middle of the road looking at you), you will have a marvelous time. I mean, it's gorgeous but it's not for everybody. However, since I had just driven hundreds of miles to get to a closed visitor center, I enjoyed it tremendously and that stretch of 191 South was the highlight of the day.

The part of Utah that I am in now does have dinosaur-related sights so see so I may yet end up with some photos of bones or footprints to show my girls.

"A Tour of Utah's Own Jurassic Park" by Hugo Martin - Los Angeles Times

As I look for photos to share (since I am a terrible photographer and am not doing this place justice) I keep finding great links to road trips, like Into the Red Rock Country.

The downside of finding all these links is that now I am paralyzed in my hotel room, writhing in indecision. Which way should I go? What should I see? So I need to just relax and enjoy myself or this will become a frantic rush to points on a map, and not a vacation. For this reason, I will stop posting my "to do" plan (tomorrow I will...) and instead post my "to did" plan at the end of the day of what I actually achieved. This takes off some of the self-induced pressure to achieve the perfect trip. :-)

Anyway, today is scheduled for Arches so I am going to take a shower, eat some breakfast, and go see some beautiful scenery!

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