CO/UT – Dinosaur National Monument

I landed in Fairplay after my Lost Creek Wilderness backpack trip. I was on my way to a wedding in Boise. With a week and 800 miles before my deadline, it was time to update my loose itinerary. Options, options, options . . . 

Weather as usual would play a role.

I decided to put in a few driving miles on this weather day, pushing my way north to Steamboat Springs. I enjoyed seeing the fresh snow dusting the mountains, but most of all these glacier lilies. 

I took a stroll through the Yampa River Botanic Park in Steamboat Springs. It was impressive.

I found more signs of spring as I headed west. 

You know it’s gonna be a bad day when . . . my morning started by accidentally activating my pepper spray in my car, then this deer decided he should take a run at me from behind (surprisingly he/she survived).

Remember those new tires I got a few weeks ago? Well that front tire got smacked hard but no damage thank goodness, although the deer hair was embedded around the rim. I was lucky. My car was driveable and I wasn’t injured. 

Not only does Dinosaur National Monument straddle Colorado and Utah, but it also has several access roads and offers so much more than dinosaur fossils.  Canyon Visitor Center is on the Colorado side near Dinosaur, CO. I was on my way out Harpers Corner Road when the deer decided to smack me. Rather than continuing on into a more remote area I decided it was best to have my car check out. First though I stopped at Quarry Visitor Center and Exhibit Hall on the Utah side. 

I was beyond impressed with what I saw at the quarry. I could have never imagined such a display. My photos couldn’t begin to capture the x size with 1,500 embedded fossils. 

The area marked in red is what’s available for viewing and known as “the wall of bones.” 

The interpretive materials were outstanding. 

A shuttle bus takes you from the visitor center to the Quarry in the summer, or you are guided there on foot in other seasons. You have the option of returning to your vehicle via the Fossil Discovery Trail, a 1.2 mile jaunt. 

I found these beauties along the way. 

I drove Cub Creek Road, and using their interpretive guidebook found more photographic worthy subjects. 

Lots of geology to learn about. 

Petroglyphs can often be found on rocks with varnish (the dark areas) such as these. 

McKee Spring Petroglyphs

Rainbow Park deserves further exploration. 

Car maintenance was the first priority before further travels. 

It worked surprisingly well and held my car together for several months before returning home to have it properly repaired. Yes, it was a great conversation starter!

Adventure Date(s):

  • May 19-21, 2018


  • Fill your gas tank. My #3 near miss on this leg of the trip was almost running out of gas.
  • Avoid wet weather trips if you want to go off the paved roads.
  • This area can get quite hot in the summer. It was in the low 80’s during my visit in late May.
  • One day wasn’t near enough to experience this park. I’ll give myself much more time on my return visit.



NM – Chaco Culture National Historical Park

After spending significant time visiting ancient sites in Utah, Colorado and now New Mexico, Joan encouraged a visit to Chaco, considered the epicenter of ancestral Puebloan culture and architecture. 

I wished I’d researched and planned a little better so I could have spent at least a couple days at this very interesting Park. I entered via the north entrance which was a very long slow bumpy 16 miles. I exited on the 20-mile southern road which took me a good hour. The campground was full and there aren’t any nearby dispersed camping options. After spending some time at the Visitor Center I drove the Chaco Canyon Road visiting the sites along the way. For the inquisitive, be sure to buy the very informative interpretive guidebooks.

There are around 500 rooms in this site including both excavated and unexcavated areas. An interesting factoid according to the interpretive guide, “There were an estimated 215,000-225,000 trees used in the construction of all the excavated great houses in Chaco Canyon.” Dendrochronology or tree-ring dating is used to determine age of timber used in construction.

Treasures abound for those willing to search. 

The Park promotes quiet, respectful visitation of this outdoor museum. As I wandered around the word that stayed at the forefront of my mind was reverence, “deep respect for someone or something; a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe.”

I talk about regrets frequently, and my goal of doing what I can to minimize that feeling. Oh how I wish I’d visited this site earlier in the day when lighting was optimal. 

Other cool find, petrified wood! 

Life among the artifacts. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • April 24, 2018


  • Prepare for lengthy time consuming drive. I highly recommend camping at the Park.
  • Morning light on the petroglyph panels is best.
  • Buy the interpretive guides.
  • Ask for the Backcountry Hiking Trail handout if interested in further exploration and hiking.
  • Trails and sites typically are open 7am to sunset.
  • I’m always curious about which structures are original as excavated vs rebuilt vs stabilized, thus one of the questions I’ve learned to ask.





UT – Capitol Reef National Park, Capitol Gorge and the Golden Throne

After four days of hiking Upper Muley Twist Canyon and Lower Muley Twist Canyon, Joan and I decided to play tourist for the day.

According to the NPS website, “Petroglyph panels throughout the park depict ancient art and stories of these people who lived in the area from approximately 300-1300 common era (CE).” 

According to the NPS website, “Elijah Cutler Behunin led a group of pioneers to clear a wagon trail through Capitol Gorge which allowed settlers, church officials, miners, outlaws, and others to pass more easily through the Waterpocket Fold.” 

Unexpected Surprises 

Great Deterrent

Adventure Dates:

  • March 28, 2018



UT – Parowan Gap . . . sometimes you just need to chill

With rain imminent and my windshield wipers giving me warning signs of failure, after my colorful geology adventure in Dixie National Forest, I prioritized the repair and returned to St George. Well long story short, they didn’t have the part and couldn’t get it for several more days. Watching the storm at Gunlock State Park improved my mood. 

So once again I gambled and continued on my way. I drove to Cedar City. Thankfully only a little rain and wipers behaved. I hung out in town for a few hours working on blog posts and photos. Soon enough snow started piling up. When the storm took a breather, I decided I best make a run for it. I didn’t really have a plan but landed at Parowan Gap. Despite the cold temps, it had stopped snowing so I decided to explore. 

The rocks are so uninspiring . . . until you look closer. 

Extra Credit: colorful geology! 

Ah, is the storm over?

Nah . . .

It might have been a little chilly during the night. I’m always thankful for  a warm sleeping pad and bag. 

I was also thankful for my JetBoil which gives me a hot cup of coffee and cereal, as well as provides me with a hand warmer. 

It was a pretty morning. 

If it wasn’t so cold, maybe I would have explored this exhibit a bit. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • March 15-16, 2018



  • Check out the community of Parowan for eats, treats, etc.


NV – Valley of Fire State Park, Part 1

I tend to avoid state parks, but after seeing so many WOW photos and being an opportunist, it was impossible to say no. I’d spent the previous few days at Mojave National Preserve and then traveled along Lake Mead where I was lucky to catch this fantastic sunrise from my dispersed campsite. 

I even found some roadside flowers. 

This roadside hot spring surprised me. 

Will I get $10 worth of enjoyment? 

Atlatl Rock

First stop was an aerobic one where I’d get to seem some rock art.
The reward for the climb. 

White Domes

My first hike was the 1.25 mile loop around White Domes. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. YES I was WOW’D!

Fire Wave

It seems everyone knows about THE wave in the Vermilion Cliffs of Arizona. Access to THE wave requires patience, planning and persistence, all things I avoid. I knew the lighting wasn’t ideal, but I decided to check out this 1.5-2 mile round-trip hike. 

Fire Canyon Road/Silica Dome 

Rainbow Vista

I was underimpressed with this 1-mile round trip hike. I didn’t take any photos until the end where you are supposed to get a panoramic view of multi-colored sandstone. No WOW view nor multiple colors in my opinion, so the best I could do was capture an arch like shot. 

Mouse’s Tank (Petroglyph Canyon)

All that was lacking on the Rainbow Vista Trail was more than made up for on the 1 mile round-trip hike on Mouse’s Tank Trail. When you look around you see lots of varnished walls, but look closer and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. 

Age and vandalism is causing significant loss. 

Some art is harder to find than others. You could easily spend days and weeks scouring these canyons. This particular hike is a treasure trove. I took tons of photos as I climbed into nooks and crannies. 

At the end of the canyon is Mouse’s Tank, a pot hole of water, extremely difficult to access. Maybe the name is because only a mouse can access it? But alas according to the handout, it was named for an outlaw who used the area as a hideout in the 1890’s.

The Cabins

This triplex is a good example of tiny house living. Cozy with views, fireplace included.

Elephant Rock

I climbed up on some rocks near the east entrance for a sunset view. It was one of those nights though when not much happened. 

. . . to be continued

Adventure Date(s):

  • March 8, 2018


  • Valley of Fire State Park
  • Nice reminder of their LNT philosophy 
  • Heat is a serious consideration when hiking in the desert
  • Be aware and knowledgeable of biological soil. 


  • Showers are available at the truck stop in St George
  • Of course there are plenty of choices for good eats like this from Big Bear Diner.