Saturday, October 6, 2012

No Dinosaurs Here (now)

Dinosaur National Monument is a fairly large park which staddles the Utah/Colorado border.  The wall of bones is located on the Utah side, and we're curious to know what is in the Colorado part of the park.  Even though the Visitors Center is closed, we decide to drive the 32 mile road that ends in a mile-and-a-half hike along a ridge above the Green River.  We are here so we might as well discover this park.
The Green River cutting through the canyon
The drive climbs up with several rest areas to view the valley below and are less than spectacular at first.  Near the end of the drive though, the views of the red canyon towards the east are stunning.  We drive to the end and hike out onto a narrow ridge which ends with views of the Green River some 2,700 feet below us.  Here the Green River converges with the Yampa River and later joins the Colorado River.  The rock formations are typical of the southwest - orange, red and yellow layers of sandstone.
Marilyn overlooking the convergence of the Green & Yampa Rivers
We view a road down in the canyon and decide to drive down.  At first, the road - a bumpy dirt road called Echo Park Road - is a series of steep switchbacks that descend quickly.  At several points, the canyon walls are only about 40 feet apart, with us in the middle.  The orange sandstone walls rise over 1,000 feet above us - an imposing force.  The road ends at the Green River where there is a very primitive campground.  It would be a great place to camp, but we would never get our trailer in here.  Tents only.  We left our trailer at the Visitors Center.
Echo Park Road cuts through a steep, narrow canyon
Marilyn where the Green and Yampa Rivers meet
Along Echo Park Road is an abandoned ranch that was once home to a family for several generations.  The raised cattle and sheep here in this harsh land, but had the luxury of a flowing creek beside the house.  I can't imagine what the soaring summer temperatures would have been like or the brutal, snowy winters.  Credit to all pioneers who braved conditions we wouldn't even consider these days.  They were a hearty, brave bunch!
Abandoned Ranch on Echo Park Road
The river is clear and cool but there is not enough time for Brad to have a swim.  We pass a cave and stop to go inside.  It is only about 6 feet deep and perhaps 70 feet long, but the truly amazing feature is straight up.  There is the outside wall of rock, then a 12-inch gap, another piece of rock, another 12-inch gap and the back wall.  The middle rock, about 2 feet thick, seems suspended in space.  We can't see any light in the gaps when looking straight up, so the ridges must all be joined towards the top.  It's a strange feeling, and standing with my head in one of the gaps is claustrophobic.  What if the slab falls on us?  Well, that's ridiculous of course.  It's probably been like this for many thousands of years, and will be for many thousands more.
Marilyn inside the fin-like cavern
Marilyn and truck at the entrance to the cave - note the sheer wall!
We expected to take two to three hours to take the drive and hike and already it has been six hours!  The drive back takes over an hour.  We have spent an entire day exploring this eastern side of the park which we weren't even planning to visit.  What a great surprise.  we love days that turn out like this, expecting nothing and gaining an experience we'll both never forget.

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