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Dinosaurs, Doobies, and Decisions - Traveling High and Low 10/21/21

Arriving early, Velociraptor Road, Brachiosaur Broadway, and other titles made up the streets of Dinosaur Colorado as I passed beyond it and into Utah. I would stop back for the Dino-Dispensary, a small building with some Willie’s Reserve I’d pick up, but the main focus of today: The dinosaurs. All of them.

Entering the park, very quickly any cell reception fell away as did the mountains. Off to the left driving in, the cliffs stayed upright the entire way, but to the right, the green river spun away across the fields leading a great glimpse of green against a sea of brown and dusted yellows.

Once I pulled in, I sorted things out at the visitor’s center for a pass, and got down to brass tax. What did I need, what did I want to do? Dinosaur National Monument is a dark-sky zone as well so I was hoping to nab a square of open sky to examine away from the lights. Unfortunately there would be a storm rolling in that I'd seen on the weather app, and the park ranger also mentioned it, making it seem not optimal for that stop. Looking at the odds she seemed doubtful it’d open up enough at the campsite still open for the season, but she did say that things may be opening up tuesday for a shot through the cloud cover.

A trek for another day, what I could do then however was the fossil quarry and trail up. The stroll up into the dry hills was a great addition, and taster, for the quarry. Spotting cave paintings, a beautiful wilderness landscape, and even fossils embedded directly into the side of the trail was a delight while I walked up to the quarry. Feeling my legs bring me to a childhood dream made the short couple of mile hike up nothing, and I was giddy to the bones.

I am a dinosaur fanatic. Love them. Always have, probably always will, they fascinate me. And the more our understanding of prehistoric animals changes, they continue to. The mystery of them, the awe, the sheer size of life that big, in a way so alien to anything we see today. I mean, Jurassic Park anyone? Who also doesn’t love the image of giant terror lizards chomping down on unsuspecting tourists, especially the rude neighbors?

Walking into the fossil center, a strange building built over top of the quarry, not only preserving the exposed face of the rock, but allowing it to be touched by visitors was a thrill. At every dinosaur exhibit ever of course the rule is that you can’t touch the fossils. Heck, even most of the “fossils'' on display are actually casts. These are hyper fragile ancient remnants of creatures millions of years old. They do not transport well. And the work that goes into preserving them shouldn’t be underestimated as well. I had an amazing time learning, but the real thrill of the day was yet to come.

I decided to pick up an eighth and some water while I was out since it was about 3:30 and the campsite was only a short ride from town. I picked up my supplies, but I pulled over when I saw a white hood open. “ I have nowhere to be and nowhere to go,” I thought.

So I stopped and he asked if I had any water, his radiator was sizzling and the water immediately hissed and dripped from the inspout onto the asphalt beneath his car.

I rolled a joint and watched him work while whiskey wandered around the desert edge and he told me his story. Eventually I offered him a ride, and he offered me a couch. As it does, one thing led to another. He’d been heading the other way, but his radiator had exploded and the car wasn’t going anywhere. As we sat and smoked, he called auto zone, found out the radiator could be there in the morning, and we reconnoitered back to his trailer in Flaming River Canyon National Monument where a snowstorm was just beginning to blow in. As we worked our way higher and higher into the mountains, the sunset made the rocks come alive as the storm slowly ate away the road behind us.

We slid into town shortly before the two gas stations in town closed, allowing me the chance to nab a couple of frozen burritos and a cube for him. I mowed down the meal, and he hit a couple of cans. Though we’d just made it into town, we hopped back into the car for a short 15 minute drive to the edge of Flaming Gorge National Monument.

As Daniel and I sat and speculated about this and that, and the fate of his car among other things, the beauty and the severity of the landscape stilled us both. The silence of the landscape was incredible, and the utter devastation was a sight as well. These enormous clouds rolled over the top of the ridge and into our path.

I found out that Daniel was a fly fishing guide, wanderer, and skier like many out west, and it’s one of the ways of the wander. Trade. I need a ride, you need a couch. He also gave me the low down on the area, and I definitely want to be back for another foray around when I have more time and better weather. Flaming gorge, filled with wind and the frozen winds coming off the storm betrayed the name, but I intend to come back in the sun. And the frozen fire was no slouch either as we watched the clouds slip towards us.

Daniel and I got back to the trailer to hit the sack and get an early jump back on the road the next day to his car. I grabbed a refresh at the lodge Shower House, surprisingly good facilities, and settled in for a long Utah Mountian nap.


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