Since Tony hasn’t had to drive through snow in a LONG time, it was a rather stimulating trip up the west side of Colorado to Vernal in the northeast corner of the wider part of Utah. It was only snowing at the highest elevation of over 7,000 ft. Fortunately we did not take one of the other two possible routes which go through much higher passes and had a lot more snow. We got a little driving snow with some slush collecting on the windshield. None accumulated on the road - only along the sides.
Because we do not know a lot about dinosaurs, we headed to this area to check out Dinosaur National Monument . As we entered the town, it was obvious that it is very proud of its dinosaur heritage. In front of a motel, there is a dinosaur in a bikini advertising the presence of a pool. There is a big pink dinosaur at the town welcome sign. There is a dinosaur holding a fish in front of a sports store. On the first sunny day, we took the bike and headed to the monument park. We soon learned that there are major renovations occurring in the park. The official Visitors’ Center is closed and is now housed in a temporary building. The main attraction, the Dinosaur Quarry is also closed until October 4, so we didn’t get to see the supposedly large mass of exposed bones/fossils or anyone digging. We did see excellent Petroglyphs that are about 1,000 years old. The second most interesting point in the park is Split Mountain. The Green River existed first. Then there was upheaval, and the mountain formed. The river, instead of changing directions and flowing around the new mountain, cut a path down the middle of the mountain. It was an impressive sight, especially since the Green River is flowing almost at flood level because of snow melt. We also enjoyed a wide variety of beautiful high-desert wild flowers. It was a great day to ride Cub Creek Road through soaring tilted rocks of many different colors. We couldn’t tour Sand Canyon because of flooding.
Since the dinosaur part of the park was closed, we were encouraged to visit the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum. It is well designed and comprehensive, and is temporarily displaying additional exhibits normally found at the visitors‘ center and the quarry of the national park. We learned why Vernal is so important. It is the central point for one of the most complete fossil and geologic records in the world. As you walk through displays representing 2.7 billion years of history, you see lots of dinosaur bones and skeletons, learn how excavations are handled, see many examples of fossils, and visit a garden with live size pre-historic animals - mostly dinosaurs but also a great woolly mammoth. What we learned is that although all this history is impressive, it doesn’t really interest us. We looked at rocks supposedly with fossilized bones. We couldn’t tell the bone fro0m the rest of the rock. We starred at a flat rock with dinosaur tracks. We couldn‘t see a thing but rock. We did a lot better with the plant and fish fossils found between layers of sedimentary rocks. We are glad we visited, but it is not a place we will put on our “visit again” list. One piece of trivia we will probably remember is that the brain of a Stegosaurus weighed only 2.5 ounces - the size of a kittens - while the animal itself weighed 4 to 6 tons.
We did learn a bit of non-dinosaur history about Vernal. In 1916 a man wanted to use textured brick, rather than the plain brick available locally, to build a bank . He needed around 80,000 bricks. The cost to have them delivered was going to be much greater than the actual cost of the bricks, so he had them individually wrapped and sent through the United State Postal Service. This led to others “abusing” the system, so the postal system passed a law saying one person could not mail more than 50 pounds a day. Must be they didn’t have the weight guidelines used today.
The rest of the week we just chilled. Since the campground was in town and within walking distance of many places, we ate out several times - a treat after being in the boonies for the past few weeks. Tony also got his birthday present - 1.5 months early - an ACER tablet. We were very close to a Staples, and the assistant manager was very helpful. Since there are no grocery stores at our next three stops, we stocked up. We have no idea what to expect. Next week we are suppose to explore the Grand Tetons; however, we hear a major road has been blocked by a rock slide. We might end up just doing jigsaw puzzles! We’ll let you know in a week!