– Vernal, Utah to Steamboat Springs, Colorado –
Utah feels quite different from Colorado. It’s only a few miles from here back into Colorado, but the culture feels almost totally different. In fact, it was sort of difficult to find anywhere nice to run this morning.
We got up at 5am, so we would have plenty of time to get to Dinosaur National Monument and back before Ripley needed to be out of our hotel room. As I mentioned yesterday, she can’t go into the Quarry Exhibit Hall, and it is warm enough around here that I wouldn’t want to leave her in the car for any great length of time. She’s safe and happy back at the hotel, we just have to hurry back to her.
Our run was a short loop around Naples Park, which we had to do multiple times to get a good run. In fact, half on the run was basically running on the sidewalk beside the street to get back to the trail through the park. Not cool. It was very boring, and not very well maintained. It worked, though, I guess. At least it was there. We only had to walk a little ways back to get to it from our hotel.
With our sad run completed, we showered and packed up everything in the hotel room, but didn’t take it out to the truck. We popped little Ripley into her cage and went down for a meager breakfast before heading off on the 15 minute drive up to the entrance to Dinosaur National Monument.
On this side of Dinosaur National Monument, there’s a visitor center and a quarry exhibit. Between 8am and 9:20am, you can drive your personal vehicle up the hill to the quarry exhibit and park in the small parking lot there. After that, because the parking lot would be a nightmare to use, visitors must park in the visitor center lot and take a little shuttle to the top. Because we arrived just after 8am, we were able to drive up to the top, which we did straightaway, since we were not sure when that ability would end (until we read about it at the visitor center later).
The Quarry Hall Exhibit is basically a housing built over an exposed rock face. The building, composed mostly of a roof and massive windows to let in natural light, is air-conditioned and has two floors that both look over at a wall of fossils left in situ in the rock face. Up until about 2012, excavation was still ongoing, but as of now, they have completed what they are willing to do with our current technology.
The rock wall is a part of what used to be a much larger cliff where a river once ran. The river began to dry up, and animals in the area began to die or be trapped on sand bars in what was left of the river. When the waters rose again, the bodies were all washed to this location together, where the larger bodies were stuck as the water once again receded. Most of the skeletons found in the rock face here are of larger creatures, in particular Camarasaurus and Allosaurus.
The site was discovered in the early 1900s, and fossils from the entire area can be found in museums across the US and even into Canada. Wikipedia calls the Morrison Formation, which is what the monument protects, “the most fertile source of dinosaur fossils in North America.”
We spent about a half hour or so looking around the exhibit, finding fossils from our little guidebook on the wall. It’s a great little place, especially for kids. The coolest thing about it is seeing the fossils still embedded in the rock where they came to rest, with the bones of particular animals still almost entirely together in places.
On our way back down from the quarry exhibit, we stopped and looked around the visitor center and bought a few postcards and the like. After the exhibit hall, the visitor center isn’t as much fun, but it was still worth the stop.
It was only around 10am when we loaded up our car and our puppy and headed out from our hotel, back into Colorado and on our way to Steamboat Springs, where we would spend the night. Today wasn’t a particularly eventful day between arriving in Steamboat and leaving Dinosaur, but we still had fun.
We stopped for lunch in Meeker at a little Chinese food hut. I don’t really know how else to describe it. We stopped there first for a picture of the courthouse, but it was also our best bet for lunch, and this was the best that we found. They didn’t have much that was vegetarian, but they had enough, and we parked our truck under a tree near the courthouse to eat our veggies and rice in the cool air under the shade. It wasn’t bad at all.
From Meeker we turned north on Highway 13 back up to Craig, where we continued down the road over to Steamboat Springs. We made it by around 3pm, which is pretty early for us. We had a lot we wanted to do with out evening, though, so we’d intended to do it this way.
In Steamboat, we checked into our hotel and unloaded the truck before we did anything else. It took us perhaps a half hour or so to get everything set up there, and then we spent a few minutes deciding what exactly we wanted to see in the town. Steamboat is another little ski town, though it is quite a bit larger than the others we’ve visited along our trip, and feels more like a city, with the major road running through it.
Around 4pm, we took a trip over to Fish Creek Falls, about 15 minutes out of town, and a quarter mile hike in and out, where we took a look around and took some photos. It’s a pretty little area, and I can only imagine that the waterfall is even more impressive when the snow is melting in the spring. Ripley had a lot of fun on the walk down to the base of the falls.
That finished, we decided to take a walk through the downtown area of Steamboat to get a look at the little shops that lined either side of the street. We bought a few ginger beers at a soda and candy shop, and peeked in the windows of a few outdoor stores.
Ripley particularly enjoyed the grass on the courthouse lawn, rolling around in it for all she was worth every time we got near it. Mark took his courthouse photos while she did so, and I, of course, tolerated them both valiantly. They are pretty cute, I have to say.
Sometime after 5, we drove back to our hotel. I gave Ripley a bath while Mark went out and bought us a pizza for our dinner. I guess “Colorado-style” pizza is a thing, though the only thing that seems different to me is the way the crust is wrapped. Maybe that’s all it means. The pizza was fine, though nothing special.
After dinner, we spent some time doing laundry and of course, blogging. We now have clean workout clothes for tomorrow, and a clean puppy. Who can ask for more?
Tomorrow we have a big day driving through Rocky Mountain National Park. The last time we visited we were in a hurry, so we are looking forward to spending a little more time exploring the park. It looks like we’ve got a nice spot to run right out behind our hotel here in Steamboat, too. It should be a pretty good day.
– Trip Total : 1,950 miles –