Thursday, September 28, 2017

Homesteads, Mountain Tops and Echo Canyons

September 19-22, 2017
Vernal, Utah

Tuesday morning we return to Dinosaur National Monument to see the few areas we missed in the Utah section of the park. 

This spot is Turtle Rock - but is it the turtle head above, or the turtle shell in the distance?

Fremont petroglyphs line a short section of the road.

Evidence shows the Fremont people lived in the area for over 600 years.

Unlike much of the rock art we've seen, these are near the path with great access.

Some are more difficult to see - like the animal on the right.
We go left at the "Y" to the turn-around point of the road (Tour of Tilted Rocks). Here is the preserved homestead of Josie Bassett Morris. Tucked against a box canyon and under a grove of cottonwood trees, the spirit of this place immediately touches me. We spend a while exploring the buildings, the creek and the box canyon. We pause and listen to the wind in the trees.

For fifty years, Josie lived here alone with no electricity, no plumbing, and no neighbors.

Three small rooms with dirt floors and zero insulation.

The canopy of cottonwoods frames beautiful views.

A very green spring still provides water for the property.

Part of the trail is silky, soft sand. It's a real surprise in this otherwise hard dirt and rock terrain.

A large rock is home to a lichen party along the trail.

The homestead includes this magnificent box canyon. The wind picks up momentum through the high walls, and the temp drops five degrees. Probably a favorite hangout in the heat of summer.
Heading back we stop at another petroglyph panel high above the road. It takes a while to find the art.

Using the guy in the blue shirt as a marker, we use the zoom and binoculars to find the pics.

How did they get the lizard legs so symmetrical?

What remains of the flute player.
Back at the "Y" we take the right arm toward Blue Mountain. Through a small canyon, then across some plains, we see a "road" going straight up the mountain ahead of us. Soon we're near the top of it! A very rough, rocky, steep track, we turn around rather than continuing by ourselves. 


Treasure hunters.... Hello! The gem's behind you!

Much steeper than it looks, we're in 4-wheel-drive low to avoid riding the brake all the way down. Nobody's in a hurry here.
The red deepens as the rain clouds move in.
The Utah section of the NM is so beautiful that we agree seeing the Colorado section is a must-do. Wednesday morning we head for Dinosaur, Colorado (don't blink), and turn in to the park. Initially wide open plains move up into junipers and pinon pines. Multiple overlooks give expansive views of grays, reds and greens. 

In the plains we come upon another antelope herd.

This little guy has to hustle to catch up.

Echo Canyon Overlook. The plaque calls it "The Center of the Universe", and later we find ourselves on the road seen below.

Iron Springs Overlook

The road makes a lollipop loop here at Harper's Corner and heads back.
It's after 2:30 and we had talked about taking a dirt road back to the bottom of Blue Mountain. But that Echo Park road looks pretty amazing so we decide to make the 26 mile round trip down the mountain and across the plateau to the canyons beyond. It turns out to be a good call, taking us to the most spectacular area we've seen so far. It is easily our favorite drive of the week.

Coming down the mountain we spy this Hershey Kiss with a bite taken out.

At the edge of the plateau is the Chew Ranch. Another beautiful setting under cottonwoods and red cliffs.

Checking out a vintage RV.

Another special place - I love the rough-hewn log buildings.
Deep in the canyon we stop at a Petroglyphs sign and follow a small trail to this stunning site.

Feeling very small. 

These glyphs are very unique, made by tapping dots into the rock.
True to its name, we bounce our echoes down the canyon here.
The height of these walls is intimidating!

Steamboat Rock

The road ends at a remote campground along the river's edge. A large group of young people are camped here. None of the pics I take of them playing Frisbee turn out - but what a great place to spend a couple days with good friends!
There was someone there on the way in, so we stop at Whisper Cave on the way back.

A short opening leads to a narrow cave under the tall wall.

A solid rock beam runs the length of the cave. 

Inside looking out.

The late afternoon sun gives each wall its own color.
After so many extraordinary days, Thursday we stay home and catch our breath. We still didn't see everything, and coming back to Vernal is high on our list for the future! 

Friday morning we pull out under cloudy skies and continue south. Highway 191 is beautiful, taking us through pine forests dotted with bright yellow aspens. It's a steep climb to the summit and we pull off to put some space between us and a slower tanker truck (I may have mentioned we're not in a hurry). 

And the light rain turns to snow!! 

The "fog" moving in is really a soft dusting of snow.
It doesn't last long, but the nine miles of 8% downgrade on the other side seems to :-) We get to the small town of Wellington, just south of Price early afternoon and set up at Mountain View RV Park. Connected to the National 9 Motel, it's a sad little park with cracked cement pads along dirt interior roads. A couple permanent rigs have seen better days. But our site is level, our neighbors are nice and very quiet, the highway noise is minimal, everything works, and the price is reasonable. 

Saturday morning we're off on a day trip - the reason for our stop here.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sheep Loop to Antelope Herd, and More Natural Beauty In Between

September 16-18, 2017
Vernal, Utah

There are so many beautiful places to see in this little corner of Utah, it's a challenge to figure out which ones to choose. Flaming Gorge is on my list, and our neighbor tells Bill that Sheep Creek Geological Loop, in the same area, is a must-do. So Saturday we head north on Highway 191.

We make a couple stops along the way to take in the pretty views and play in the red dirt. Soon we're on Highway 44 and into Ashley National Forest.

Layers continue to erode, exposing new color beneath.

I find this big brain along the highway - and that big rock behind him :-)

Mesquite and old fences.

Cart Creek Meadow
Lots of places to come back and explore another day.
Small Aspen groves get an early start on Fall colors.
Sheep Creek Loop climbs over deep canyon views, then drops along several switch-backs. Every turn brings another geology lesson - and lots of Wows! Layers of different colors tell the story of oceans, ice, drought, ash and deep rivers. Uplifts provide dramatic evidence of Mother Earth's violent remodeling projects. It's a beautiful drive, and we agree it's a must-do. We don't see any of the Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep herd living here.

In Malta, ten miles from the Wyoming border, we grab lunch at Browning's, the only eatery in town. Might be the only public place in town. Then we return to Flaming Gorge Reservoir, hoping to catch the afternoon color. 

Red, white and blue.

7 miles of washboard dirt road take us to the viewpoint at Dowd Mountain - worth every shake and rattle.

A hidden finger of water.

The viewpoint itself is lovely.

These signs line Highway 191 - no place to stop to catch my favorite "Stegosaurus roamed here."

Red Fleet Lake State Park

The three red "ships" that give the lake its name.
Sunday it's football all day. It's really a bonus that we have satellite under the stately tall trees.

With our focus on several games at once, the diligent guard dog keeps on eye on the dangerous kitty cat next door.
When we crossed the city limit sign in the motorhome on Wednesday, the check engine light came on. Not the CHECK ENGINE!! light, the other one. Bill called the local Cummins Service Center, and our appointment is 7:30 Monday morning.

Mike is a great guy who immediately hooks up the computer. Of course no active fault :-(. He assures us he'll continue to work on it, and we head out for breakfast.

And coffee - I'm never up this early!

Sue recommended we visit Fantasy Canyon southwest of town. Sounds like our kind of place - weird and not well known.

Much of the drive is through active oil fields, small hills of scrub brush, and open range with lots of cattle. Hard to imagine a natural wonder existing out here.

But even from the dirt parking lot we can see a naturally wonderful place. We explore for over an hour, looking for the shapes named and identified with small markers, and pointing out our own favorites. We have the whole place to ourselves. Tessa even gets in some zoomies among the formations on the trail.

Sandstone, siltstone and shale deposited and hardened 38-50 million years ago along what was then a 150 acre lake, over a half mile deep.

Penguins and bud vases

Ghosts and gargoyles

Some crevices are deeper than the naked eye can see.

Tessa thinks this new playground is great!

Looking like sand, the formations are very hard.
Free standing art pieces along the trail.
Can't we stay and play all day?
We take a different route back, and have three pronghorn sightings - each group larger than the last. They are beautiful animals.

This lone young buck takes his time crossing the road.

I wait for him to cross, then approach slowly while he just watches us drive by. Handsome guy.

Near the Green River we see this small herd.

Over 50 in this herd! Alfalfa farmer probably doesn't think they're so pretty.

All are about the same age and move in tight formation through the field.
Our house is ready to pick up when we get back to town. 19 computer updates, but no specific problem found. Jessica has contacted our extended warranty, and says she'll call us when she hears back. No, we don't need to pay anything now. Just take the rig and let them know if the light comes on again. Nothing to sign, all good.

I've mentioned before how much I love small towns and the people who live and work in them. We do hear back before we leave - warranty covered everything, nothing to pay. Emailed zero balance invoice. If you need work on your Cummins engine when you're in the area - go see Mike and Jessica!

Next we return to Dinosaur National Monument for two more amazing days of exploration.