Monday, September 18, 2017

Thar Be Dinosaurs! And Sheep and Mammoths :-)

September 13-15, 2017
Vernal, Utah

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. 
The Carnegie Quarry is mind-blowing for dinosaur geeks like us. I've seen other's pics so I knew we'd love it. But nothing beats the personal experience. We spend a long time reading and touching and just staring at the incredible collection left in situ. 

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.
We're blown away by the quarry, and would be happy if that's all we see today. Continuing into the park, the happy just keeps coming!

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.....
The expected rain comes on Friday, a perfect day to visit the Utah Field House Museum of Natural History (they have a dinosaur almost as long as their name!).

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!
This mammoth is part of the outdoor display that we could view through the window while it was pouring outside. The "hair" is hemp which has to be replaced periodically because the birds love to make their nests with it. Wonder if the big guys had similar issues with their real hair?
Vernal is a great town. It's clean and easy to navigate. Most services are available. There's a decent variety of eateries. People are friendly.

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 :-))

Saturday, September 16, 2017

In the Clear Blue Skies of Utah!

September 8-13, 2017
Park City, Utah

Friday morning we move into our 31st state - Utah! The further south we go, the bluer the sky. Turning into Park City RV Resort we are under completely clear skies - ahhhhhh, wonderful! I honestly feel like we've climbed out from under a heavy blanket. Even when clouds roll in later it's okay because they carry the smell of rain instead of the stink of smoke.

Although just a frontage road away from I-80, our canyon-front site feels like we're in the hills. Asphalt interior roads and concrete sites with nice landscaping make for a very clean park. 50 amp FHUs, shade and satellite access, and close to the pretty town of Park City. We like it so much, we add a day to the end of our stay - also I want to wait until my good friend Laura gets back from California!

Love our big front view.

A more rustic campground along the creek below us.
We have family and friends in the Ogden/Salt Lake City area (amazing, none of them are from high school!) that we missed when we had to reroute last year. 

Saturday evening we visit a young man (and his family) who is a good friend of Bill's sons, and like a 7th son to him. It's a great visit - BBQ and brews, sitting outside watching the sun set, laughing with fun people.

Bill, Nik and Knox

Gorgeous skies.

The sky turns Tessa pink - she loved having a big yard and a doggie pal to run around with.
On Sunday we drive north to Snow Basin Resort outside Ogden to meet cousin Penny, her daughter, son-in-law and grandson. What a great venue! Son-in-law Jesse plays in a Johnny Cash cover band that we enjoy a lot. The weather is perfect and we have a great time getting caught up with family.

'Johnny' and Jesse

Precious Desmond

Penny, Bill, Jesse, Katie and Desmond
Other than a short drive through and above Park City we just enjoy hanging out at home with the clear skies and mild temps

A cute, busy and expensive downtown.

The little movie theater has wonderful character.

Art gallery greeter.

Early signs of Fall.

We almost missed them, but Tuesday morning Laura and son Michael come up the hill for coffee and catching up. A good friend in SoCal, she and family moved to Salt Lake City over a year ago. It's so great to see them!!!

Laura and Michael
Wednesday we're moving south again. We have dinosaurs to see!!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Escaping Through Idaho

September 2-7, 2017
Kooskia, Cascade, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, ID

In early June we had reservations through September 12. It made for a stress-free summer in beautiful places.

Leaving Lewiston, Idaho, on Saturday I cancel our Montana stops due to current and forecasted smokey skies. We'll finish the holiday weekend in little Kooskia, then head south.

No we won't.

The drive along the Clearwater River is beautiful as long as we look down. The smoke gets worse as we head east.

Heavy smoke, zero cell coverage (even in town), no Internet coverage (even in town), and a very sad RV "park" means we're back on the road Sunday morning.

It's too bad because River Junction RV Park (creative website is not representative of reality) is in a lovely location along the water. The obvious permanent residents are in units that look like they were towed there - or they're living under tarps. The "river access" is non-existent through overgrown brambles and brush. The grounds are dirt and overgrown weeds, no WiFi although it's advertised, and only a couple 50 amp spots. 

Laundry out the bedroom window is a first.

One of several "rustic sites" at this sad little park.
I'm happy to find a vacancy on Sunday at Arrowhead RV Park in Cascade, Idaho. What a difference! Well maintained, and mostly over-nighters. Tent sites are packed but clean and quiet. Our waterfront site has easy access to the river where Bill is able to drop a few hooks. 

The morning's drive is another narrow two-lane highway that follows the Salmon River. We can't wait to come back to this area when it's clear. It is a wild and beautiful place.

A rare travel-day stop for us - along the Salmon River.

Most of the river is rapids (lots of rafting companies along the route), but a few smooth pools are like glass under gray skies.
A unique feature of the RV park is the many hand-carved totem poles throughout. They also give classes on how to carve them!

Cascade is a very small town so we are surprised to find an upscale bistro with outstanding menu. Remington's seats maybe 30 people, but is big on quality and service.

Poke with lots of seared ahi tuna - fabulous!

We really like this piece above our table but have to ask the server what it doesn't. It's the sheet used to cut out the letters from the words out front. The owner liked it as it's own art - so cool!
With lots to see in the area, and a near perfect park, we would stay here a week or more if we had clear skies.

We don't. The smoke gets worse over the two days, and is horribly thick on Tuesday morning when we pull out. 

10 AM sun attempting to light the day.

Low visibility on Interstate 84.
Even more beautiful than the Clearwater and the Salmon, the Payette River follows the highway, with long stretches of roaring rapids, small waterfalls, and scenic boulders.

There is a lot we want to see in Twin Falls, Idaho, so we head there. Instead, we see exactly nothing here. By the time we pull into Twin Falls 93 RV Park I am feeling claustrophobic. At this point I don't care where we go, as long as there's clear skies. I think Nevada looks like our best option, but Wednesday morning the webcams show smoke there as well.

No place in a two-hundred mile radius is outside the smoke cover so I choose a route based on something more fun - meeting up with friends!

Wednesday morning I let Jim and Diana know we'll meet them in Idaho Falls at the Snake River RV Park for the evening. It's the highlight of our time in Idaho!

The park is adequate, and we enjoy catching up with a couple of our favorite people around the picnic table before heading into town for dinner. Afterwards we make a quick stop at the pretty falls that give the city its name. 

Jodee, Bill, Diana and Jim. We sure do like these two!!

When we go to bed the plan is to take off for Dubois, Wyoming, in the morning. We'll see the Tetons and spend some time along the Snake River. But once again, webcams show the smoke has moved that direction ahead of us. Who wants to be "in front of" the Tetons and not be able to see them? And who wants to spend those high park rates if you're not going to enjoy it?

Now what? Montana is seeing some clearing, but the fires are still burning. Utah is our destination in a few weeks, but there are fires near Ogden. At this point it's a roll of the dice, and we finally decide to just turn back south.

We make another single night stop in Pocatello to fill a prescription, and to check out a little brew pub recommended by Ezra's other grandma. Pocatello KOA is a small park with easy access from the highway, and is fine for watching the opening game of the NFL season. The pharmacies don't have what we need in stock, but the pub is a hit :-))

After the GPS leads us on a triple loop tour, we finally find the cute little brewery.

Great label art for their brews.
We have family in Ogden, and friends in Salt Lake City, but the clearest looking skies are in Park City, Utah, and that's where we head on Friday morning. 

Although it is frustrating not finding what we're looking for, it's fun having the freedom to make route decisions day to day. I love it when Labor Day is behind us, and reservations are no longer necessary!

Yes, leaving Idaho we finally escape the smoke :-)))