Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Camping on BLM near Dinosaur Trackway

On the way to Colorado, we pass through the northeastern corner of Utah (the Beehive State), a state that never disappoints us.  We decide to camp on federal land along Donkey Flat Road near Red Fleet State Park.  Our view is spectacular, with red rock mountains rising from the high desert floor.  It's like looking at a painting when we look out our windows.  We hike a trail called Dinosaur Trackway which takes us through the rock canyons down to the Red Fleet Reservoir across from the State Park.  Here a 25 degree sloping (I'm just guessing) shale rock face reveals hundreds of dinosaur tracks.  A single foot imprint is a track, more than one footprint from the same dinosaur is a trackway, and there are several trackways.  They are not always easy to find, but a map identifying their locations helps us.  It is amazing to see this evidence of a long-extinct monster that roamed this area millions of years ago.
My foot beside a dinosaur track at Red Fleet State Park
Marilyn standing on top of the rock imprinted with dino tracks - cool cave

Brad swimming in the cave formed by the overhanging rock
The water in the reservoir is cool and very clear.  Brad decides to go for a swim.  He strips down to his underwear and dives into the water.  I simply can't do that - swimming in unfamiliar water is, for me, frightening.  A school of bass follow him into a cave created by the overhanging rock where we find the dino tracks (in the photo above, I am walking on this overhanging rock cliff that creates the cave).  Brad is in his element, but his hair is ruined for the rest of the day.

The next morning it's raining - our first rain during the day since we left home.  The surrounding mountain tops are shrouded in mist and the clouds are very dark, but start to lift just before noon, so we head southeast to Dinosaur National Monument which straddles the Utah/Colorado border.  We visit the Dinosaur Quarry in the western area of the Monument, still in Utah.  Here a building houses an almost vertical wall of hundreds of inarticulated petrified dinosaur bones.  The effect of this preserved jumble of skeletons is extraordinary.  Paleontologists estimate that these dinosaurs (about 500 different individuals from 6 different species) died within a few years of each other.  Their bones were buried in a lake bed that eventually became a river and the bones were washed down the mountain.  As it (the mountain) eroded during the next several million years, the fossils were exposed.  They were originally discovered in 1909 and thousands of bones were excavated.  This large section, about 75 feet long by 25 feet high, was left intact to display to the public.  Nothing has been changed, reinforced or replicated.  Even the scrape marks from chisels are apparent in the rock, and the metal "plugs and feathers" used to separate the solid rock into chunks are still embedded.  A building was built around the stone wall in 1958, but within a few years cracks began to form because of the unstable and shifting clay base.  By 2006, the building was deemed unsafe and was closed for a 5-year renovation.  This new housing was opened just last year, so we feel lucky to be able to see this.  It is unimaginable by us that these huge creatures once roamed the earth, but here they are, entombed in the sandstone revealing clues about our planet's dynamic past.
A dinosaur spine and head petrified in the rock wall

Marilyn in front of the bone wall at Dinosaur National Monument, UT
We stop for the night at an Historic Marker along Highway 40 and during the night, Grady catches and kills yet another mouse - his third on this trip.  He wakes Brad with it because he brings it to our bed again and runs across Brad's head in the chase.  These mice must be getting in through some very tiny crack, but we don't believe there is a family living in the trailer.  We're pretty sure that each individual comes in because it either senses the warmth (nights are cold) or smells food.  Grady is finally fulfilling his duty as a cat.

Hey, I've been forgetting to note each state's nickname as we travel along.  Iowa, The Hawkeye State.  South Dakota, The Mount Rushmore State, although I prefer their license plate which states "Great Faces, Great Places".  Wyoming, The Cowboy State - you can say that again!  Utah, The Beehive State - I have no idea!  Colorado, The Centennial State or The Mile-High State - I get the latter but I'm not so sure about the former.  Our next stop, The Mile-High State, which will mean Grady will have visited 20 of the 50 States; me 37 and Brad 36.  That's one well-traveled cat!

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