Saturday, August 04: Dinosaur to Flaming Gorge
An unfortunate end to a hike
Today was dinosaur day. We packed up at the hotel after having a complimentary breakfast. Then we drove to Dinosaur National Monument.
The visitor’s center isn’t that impressive. For the main event, you take a tram up to the quarry. At the quarry there is a large building built against the rock face. Along the rock face there are a vast number of fossils, mostly half exposed. On the lower level, you can reach out and touch the fossils.
According to one ranger I asked, the fossils are about half bone (by volume) and half mineral (i.e. the minerals filled up the pores in the bones).
We then took the tram down, then drove to a picnic area and had lunch. We hadn’t planned for lunch, but we had some odds and ends from previous shopping trips so we could cobble something together.
Then we drove back to the visitor’s center and took the tram up to the quarry for the 1:00 Ranger-led hike down the path to the visitor’s center, taking three side spurs to look at fossils “in the wild”.
They warned us about the second spur, which featured a “cliff” next to the trail and might bother people who were afraid of heights. This I really had to laugh at. The “cliff” was a 45-degree slope that only went down about 40-50 feet. After the vast drop-offs at Zion and Bryce, this was absolutely nothing.
But at that point, the naturalist-led portion came to an abrupt end. A woman passed out, presumably from the heat and maybe dehydration. So the guided part effectively ended. We finished the hike by ourselves, passing the guys with the one-wheel stretcher going up.
That ranger-led activity, abridged as it was, was the final thing Mike needed for his Junior Ranger badge. Here, he was excited about getting it.
We had decided that we would drive up to Flaming Gorge Rec Area and camp there for the night. We asked one of the rangers at Dinosaur, she suggested that we get to Flaming Gorge by 5 and ask at the visitor’s center there about camping.
So when we left Dinosaur, we were on rather a time budged. The GPS had us arriving at Flaming Gorge around 4:15, but we still needed to gas up and buy groceries for dinner. By the time we did those things, we were due in to FG by 4:50.
We rushed over, the road climbing steeply, then dropping into a valley, climbing again, and then dropping into the river valley.
We went to the dam and found a visitor’s center there. It turns out that the rushing was not necessary--they close at 6. They also didn’t have much to say about campgrounds. There are probably a dozen scattered throughout Flaming Gorge.
The first two campgrounds we drove to were full, but the third one had vacancies. We found a nice site, which almost had a view of the lake, and set up our tent. We are now far enough outside of the path of the water vapor from the monsoons, that we didn’t have any afternoon thunderstorms, and we didn’t expect any showers tonight, so we left off the fly. (Hopefully we won’t regret this at 3am!)
We fried up some burgers for dinner, and had some potato salad, coleslaw, tomatoes, and avocado.
Then we cleaned up, and watched the sun set. On the way back to our site, Mike and I saw some emergency vehicles nearby. We walked down the hill to investigate. We really couldn’t see what they were or what they were doing. On the way back (using our headlamps), I suddenly started and then froze.
Across my path in front of me, there was a snake. But it wasn’t an ordinary snake. It was a really *large* snake. I would guess it was 4-5 feet long and between an inch and an inch-and-a-half wide. It didn’t have a rattle, and it was sort of spotted.
As I looked, its head went into a hole in the ground, and it started to slither into the hole. Mike and I went around it, back to camp, and to bed. Then it was time for me to write this up with a cup of hot chocolate. Now it is time to go to bed.
Michael just made a spontaneous comment: “Today was a great day!”