An easy 150 mile drive on Wednesday takes us to the little town of Vernal, Utah. We're here to see dinosaurs, and find so much more!
Fossil Valley RV Park is in the middle of town. It's a perfect spot for all we want to do. The owner, Dennis, is a quiet gentleman, and runs a well maintained, no frills RV-only park. The sign out front is beat up, but the park is clean, level and peaceful. Lots of beautiful tall trees, but Dennis knows which sites are good for satellite and he lets us pick the one we like. Park WiFi works well too.
Wasting no time, we're off to see Dinosaur National Monument. This is a large park, shared by Utah and Colorado. More than a day's worth to see for sure!
More than once we say "This alone was worth the $20 entry fee." It's free with our America the Beautiful membership.
|1/2 mile before the entrance we make a quick stop along Green River. No fish, but there could have been!|
|A small and informative Visitor's Center with a good video about the incredible dinosaur finds here - and very friendly and helpful rangers.|
Experts believe that the cycle of drought and flood along this ancient riverbed led to the large number of skeletons found. 500 specimens have been unearthed. While most are still in the quarry, some are displayed in other museums including the Smithsonian in DC, and the Carnegie in Pittsburgh.
|The Wall of Bones from the second story.|
|Can you imagine coaxing these huge pieces from the rock?|
|I took dozen of pics, but you get the idea of all there is to see.|
|Found in 1924 here at the quarry, this Allosaurus is one of the best preserved complete skulls ever found. More fragile than other bones, skulls are usually found crushed and shattered.|
|Happy dino-geek with a femur as tall as he is.|
|In addition to the giant treasures are some much smaller finds. This salamander fossil is about the size of my finger - and is 149 million years old!|
|I find it fascinating that the covered quarry is only a small part of an area they believe contains many more bones and fossils.|
|One man's dream realized here at Dinosaur National Monument.|
|Stunning views draw us further into the park.|
|Scoops of ice cream.|
|This large snake head looks through the small arch.|
|Colorful uplifts throughout the landscape.|
|Green River adds another layer of color.|
|Multiple angles carved by centuries of river flow. See them in the sand to the left?|
|Bill sees them first. A small nursery herd of ewes and their kids - Big Horn Sheep chill on the beach.|
|Until recently it was believed the Green River cut through Split Mountain to make two - new evidence shows the separate ranges were there before the river.|
|Interesting signage adds to the experience.|
|Straight lines and dripping varnish make this look man made - but it's all Mother Nature doing her thing.|
|Down river she throws in some purple. Because she can.|
|While we're here.....|
Yesterday's geek-fest continues. If you've seen enough dinosaurs and fossils feel free to bail here.....
We start in the small theater with a video that does a great job of explaining the earth's layers and how they represent millions of years of plants and animals. This information is referenced throughout the museum, making a great foundation for picturing how the area evolved.
Exhibits include bones and fossils combined with murals depicting how they interacted in different eras. It's truly amazing what we can know today about who was doing what (and why) with who, hundreds of millions of years ago!!
|It's not as easy as it looks - what's a fossil and what isn't.|
|Diplodocus swallowed stones to grind their food for aide with digestion - they lacked back teeth to do the job of mastication.|
|Haplocanthosaurus skeleton found nearly complete, missing only the head. Believed to have died at a very old age because arthritis was found, but no teeth marks or other indicators of attack or trauma. So cool!!|
|This Stegosaurus fossil was a rare find because the bones are still in their natural position. It answered questions experts had about plate positioning along their backs.|
|The juvenile Stegosaurus (cast from the bones) uncovered here is the best sample found to date.|
|If we ever move back to a stationary home we'd love a wall of fossils!!|
|A spiral of shark teeth - 250 million years old.|
|The small exhibit on the Fremont Indians includes a beautiful collection of old beaded items.|
|Diploducus carnegii found in the Morrison Foundation, Wyoming, 149 million years after she died. 100+ feet long!|
And at least one police officer is really awesome!
Driving a back road while looking for a place to grab some lunch I hear the whoop, whoop behind me that you never want to hear when driving. I pull over and pull out my driver's license. The serious officer asks if I know how fast I was going.....uuuh, no. But I do admit sincerely that I wasn't paying attention, that we were trying to figure out where to eat, that we aren't from around here (you know, in case he didn't notice the California plates), I apologize. He shares that I was going 16 miles above the speed limit. Damn. Just as exciting, the proof of insurance card is expired. This is going to cost a lot of money :-(
While he returns to his vehicle to determine my fate, I pull up the current insurance doc on my phone. When he comes back to my window he hands back my docs and says "Everything's in order." He doesn't need to see the electronic copy. He reminds me that school is back in. I agree I'm a bad person.
And then he tells me to slow down and gives me a big smile. Seriously? I'm from out of state, going way too fast in your town, you had to put your siren on because I wasn't paying attention, I don't have the required proof of insurance, and you're giving me a verbal warning????? All my good driving karma just got cashed in.
Of course we ask him where we should eat. Now that we're all buddies. His recommendation is delicious :-)
We're having such a good time, we've already extended our stay :-))