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.


  1. Stunning views around every turn! Spectacular country we live in!

  2. I love the spectacular views, but all the tiny spots that draw one in are my favorite! Love the petroglyphs...especially the figure with the ear-rings! I would love exploring the old homesteads.

    1. It was a hard life at those homesteads, but the natural beauty would be good for the soul I think.

  3. You certainly had a very fulfilling and fun filled day of exploration. Seems you touched on all the senses on this outing, and the Jeep had some fun too! Thanks for having me along

    1. Always good to have you along for the ride Jeff. It really is one of those places that overloads the senses :-)

  4. Love the turtles. I’m betting the head is the one they are talking about but the shell in the distance is definitely turtle. Also absolutely crazy about Petroglyphs. I’m really happy to see Bill could get so close and yet there is no graffiti. Sure would like to have known Josie. I think she’s a woman after my own heart although obviously she wouldn’t have cared to have me visit her. She sure has a fabulous box canyon. Sweet! Those later views are definitely WOW and so are your antelope pictures. Sweet ad for Jeep. See if you can sell it to their ad men.

    1. I agree about the turtle head! You would love Josie's place, it's very special.

  5. Those are awesome drives from Dinosaur NM. Josie was quite the tough woman. Such an interesting story. The Fremont people had such unique art work. I love the earrings on that one figure. I still wonder about those lizards. I questioned them when we saw them. They are almost too perfect compared to the other art work. So glad you enjoyed your time. I sure do miss those beautiful rocks. Thanks for sharing so many gorgeous photos. Made me smile:)

    1. As high up as the lizards are I don't know how modern man could have produced them, but still - they're too perfect :-)))) The Echo Park drive is jaw-dropping and well worth the jaunt from Vernal to see it.

  6. Soooo spectacular! Those colors, that you're making me miss the Southwest. What an interesting day of exploring. Love the photo of the two treasure hunters ("The gem's behind you," haha!!). Great vintage RV, too. You are hilarious. And so brave! You were up there really high looking down really far at the valley below!

    1. So brave!! But what a great reward.

      If you haven't done Echo Park yet you would love it - you don't need a Jeep, there were sedans at the campground. It is definitely a glorious place.

  7. Thanks for the tour of that box canyon and Vernal. Jose was a hardy gal.

  8. Love UT, we did 191 going the other way, beautiful area of the country.

    1. We're already looking forward to coming back and will have to check out that northern corner!