Dinosaur Trip Journal
August 2, 2000 - August 6, 2000
Recorded by Dick Hodgman

August 2, 2000

We arrived in Salt Lake City right on schedule at 10:10 A.M. Our rental car was an Explorer instead of the Taurus we had requested. That was OK with us - more room all around.

We drove into Salt Lake City from the airport and found an Albertson's grocery and stocked up for our trip. We bought two Styrofoam coolers and ice, cereal, milk, water, snacks, Pepsi, and popcorn. We then had lunch at Burger King.

It took us 20 minutes to get to I-80 E out of Salt Lake City. Construction had closed down the segment we had taken and we had to wind our way through town to find a likely access.

We stopped seven times on our way on US 40 to Vernal - bathroom, snacks, scenic views, and a nap. It took us four-and-a-half hours out of a nominal three hours straight through.

We got a big room at the Best Western Antler in Vernal - two queen-sized beds and a sofa bed. We went to the J & B for dinner. Thomas had a corn dog with salad bar; I had an eight-ounce sirloin.

Next we drove to the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park - a building in eastern Vernal. A Diplodicus skeleton in a large room greeted us - a large room but too small for the specimen! We took pictures as we walked around the dinosaur garden just outside the museum. We picked up souvenirs in the gift shop and toured the museum. Next we stopped in the Northeastern Utah Visitors' Bureau at the corner of the building. Linda gave me maps and a rundown on things to do at Dinosaur National Monument on Thursday. She also guided us to McCarty's Rocky Mountain Soda Fountain.

McCarty's is intimate - there are four tables and a counter with eight stools. Thomas and I sat at the counter and ordered our ice cream. It was delicious. A band played in the corner. One group of about six people was celebrating a birthday.

August 3, 2000

This morning we got up at 7 A.M. and ate Reese's Peanut Butter Puffs for breakfast (Thomas's choice). We then swam in the motel pool for a half an hour. We then took our showers and I packed and loaded the car while Thomas talked to his friend Austin on the phone.

We left the motel at 10:30 and drove east on US 40 to a rock shop. The sign in the window said they were open and gave a number to call so they would open the door. We had no phone, so I hollered up to the open window but no one came down to open up.

We then drove east toward the Dinosaur National Monument. We stopped at the Utah Visitors' Center at the turnoff for the west entrance to Dinosaur national Monument. I asked the attendant for a recommendation of a good place to eat lunch and she suggested the gift shop just before the park. We ate there and then headed into the park.

Dinosaur national Monument now operates a shuttle from a parking lot on the plain up to the quarry during the summer. The shuttles run every fifteen minutes. We caught one right away and got to the quarry at 12:20 - just as a ranger talk was getting underway. After the talk, Thomas went up to feel the casts of an Allosaurus skull, a Duckbill skull, and a Stegosaurus spike.

Thomas and I got to touch some fossils near the area where the talk was given. We also looked at the rock face of the quarry with a picture guide map. We then went to the bookstore where I got some dinosaur models as Christmas presents and joined the Dinosaur National Association and received a book bag and a 15% discount at the store.

We caught a shuttle back to the parking lot and proceeded on the auto tour - to a beautiful vista, a walk-up petroglyph site, and an 85-year-old run-down cabin. The latter two were on a bumpy but easily accessible dirt road. We didn't see any prairie dogs, though - they were probably holed up in the 100-degree heat.

We left the cabin at 3:15 back to the Dino Gas station at US 40 where we filled the tank, bought Gatorade for Thomas, and bought another bag of ice.

Next was the drive to Fruita, Colorado - pronounced Froo-ta, not Fru-ita. On the way we stopped at a pharmacy, then drove straight through to Douglas Pass at 8200 feet. We did slow down a few times for open-range cattle.

We stopped for half-an-hour at Douglas Pass, where we examined the cattle guard, the weather station, and rocks falling from the hillside. There, Thomas found a fossil. It looks like a conglomeration of spherical seashells or maybe seeds clustered thickly together, cemented with a bare minimum of substrate.

We then headed for Fruita, where we drove through town but could not find a motel we liked. We headed to Grand Junction where I got lost until I found a city map on the Colorado State map. We found a room at the Country Inn. I moved the luggage in, we called home, and then we went to Applebee's for dinner, right across the road.

August 4, 2000

Thomas and I ate at Denny's this morning. It was right next door to the Country Inn. After we checked out, we headed to the Dinosaur Museum of Western Colorado only to find an empty building with no sign. I drove south looking for the Cultural Museum. I finally called and found it was right across the road. When we got there, we were told that Dinosaur Museum of Western Colorado had merged with the Dinomation Discovery Museum in Fruita. Since that was our next stop, we headed on out and arrived there at 10:30 AM.

We were greeted by two Stegosaurs moving before our eyes, a transparent Dimetrodon with manual controls so we could see how the mechanisms worked, and a Dilophosaurus that spit! There was a walk-in display comparing the sizes of vertebrate hearts and a mockup of Elmer Riggs's tent on Dinosaur Hill. The gift shop wrapped it up for us.

We then went to McDonald's Playplace for lunch and next on to Dinosaur Hill at 12:30 PM.

It was 100 degrees by the time we started our hike at Dinosaur Hill. After slathering ourselves with sunblock, we headed off, wearing our K. C. Zoo hats. We made the trek to the summit and the shelter there on a refurbished trail. Thomas and I shared most of a bottle of water and I took 12 photos for a 360-degree panorama of the mesa and the Colorado River basin. We then got lost finding our way down. After two false starts, we took our original guess and made our way down an outdated, rough, slippery path. We saw the Apatasaurus dig site and after an hour total we made our way back to the car where we cooled off and drank more.

We decided one hike was enough for the day so we took a pass on Riggs Hill and the Brachiosaurus dig site. After stocking up on ice, snacks, and souvenirs, we drove west on I-70 towards Moab, Utah.

We passed the Cisco, UT (no services) exit and then went on to UT-128 (Scenic Route) south to Moab. After about 10 miles of scrub we came to the Colorado River again and headed into the canyon lands of the Colorado. The views were spectacular. Eventually we saw rafters. I stopped frequently to take photos.

Into Moab, we took a room at the Best Western Canyonlands. We ate dinner at Pasta Jay's, then went for a swim and soaked in the spa at the hotel.

August 5, 2000

We had breakfast at the hotel this morning - they had a light buffet. Thomas had Frosted Flakes, but we had to provide our own whole milk. We checked out and then did errands - film, candy, hand lotion, bottled water, and Pokemon playing cards.

We ate lunch at Taco Bell and then set off to Potash Road, four miles north of Moab on UT-191, then 5.7 miles on UT-279, not the 4.5 miles as given in two sources. The sign for the dinosaur tracks is on the left while the site is on the right, also making it hard to spot.

Thomas and I climbed up an unmarked trail and after a false start ended up just below the trackway. After a couple of photos we worked our way back down. It was a trek I wouldn't recommend - bare rock, varying slopes, and some gravel.

On the way, I photographed both petroglyphs and scenery. The Colorado River and the cliffs were beautiful.

Next we drove to Mill Canyon. The dirt road was a bit confusing - it was a bit less than two miles west of the road, with a couple of turns. I wouldn't take it in rainy weather!

The trail was less taxing than Potash Road and we did see the fossils, but there were gaps. Hopefully we just missed some fossils, but I fear some had been vandalized.

Next, we drove on to Price, Utah - about 100 miles and 1-1/2 hours, plus 15 minutes in Green River getting fuel.

In Price we checked into our motel and then found the CEU Prehistoric Museum - again, not exactly easy to find. The museum is spectacular - actually, the fossils are spectacular, the museum is quite modest. The Utahraptor skeleton is mounted on the second floor in a corner. The exhibits are well done, including a whole section on tracks with casts and footprints and feet compared.

We then visited the bookstore and had a nice conversation with the attendant who is studying to be a curator.

We closed the museum, then went back to the motel for phone calls and a swim, then to Pizza Hut for dinner and Baskin 31 Robbins, then back to the hotel to unpack.

Thomas's tooth came out while we watched TV. He played with dinosaur models and then we went to bed.

August 6, 2000

We showered, ate breakfast, packed up, and left Price by 9:35. We decided to do no more trails this trip so we skipped the Cleveland Quarry, which was about two hours south and out of our way.

Just north of Price was a coalmine stretching at least a mile along the road. It may have been the source of some of the dinosaur footprints we saw at the CEU.

We exited at Provo to go to Taco Bell but it was closed at 11 A. M. and wouldn't open for another 15 minutes. We wound our way back to the highway and found a Subway sandwich shop in Orem. We were the first customers of the day. We called home on the cell phone since we were finally back in range.

We continued to Salt Lake City and to the Natural History Museum at the University of Utah. There, Thomas and I fed an Allosaurus that spoke to us.

We went upstairs to the Vertebrate Hall where an explainer showed us fossils. We successfully identified several of them, including a coprolite.

The dinosaur display was designed 25 years ago so the Allosaurus was in the upright pose. It was a nice specimen in any case, as was the Stegosaurus.

Thomas and I enjoyed a small orrery - we watched for a lineup of all planets through Saturn, and we timed Mercury at 15 seconds, giving a year as one minute to scale.

Thomas posed in a giant dinosaur footprint. We also looked at a beautiful mineral collection.

We then drove across Salt Lake City, refueled the Explorer, returned it, and got on our flight home.

(c) 2002 Dick Hodgman
For further information, contact Dick through http://www.hodgman.org/contact/

Last modified on 2003 January 13

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